How bad did things look for Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay as they went to trial in January? If the numbers were any indication, pretty dismal. Three out of four mock juries hired to listen to their defense team present the case concluded that the pair were guilty. And seven of the eight juries who looked just at Lay’s case voted to convict him as well. The defense was holding on to one glimmer of hope. Their jury consultants had found that a few people might — emphasis on might — be willing to consider the possibility that other executives were to blame for the Enron debacle and that no human being could possibly monitor every aspect of a multibillion-dollar company’s affairs.

Still, the defense team could almost hear the jailhouse door slamming in the distance. Prosecutors had appeared to be on the verge of a slam dunk. But things weren’t going so well for them, either. The Enron case had given prosecutors an embarrassment of riches, but they were struggling with a story that only an accountant could love. Was a working-class Houston juror going to relate to a tale of mark-to-market write-downs and revenue recognition? No one was going to confuse this case with a Grisham thriller, and the prosecution team plotted with their jury consultants to keep from losing a sure thing.

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