HOUSTON -- The government bore down on Enron Corp., intimidating top lieutenants into pointing fingers at their bosses because someone had to pay for crimes that preceded the company's stunning collapse, the lawyer for former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling said yesterday.
''This was all manufactured after the fact," Daniel Petrocelli declared in an impassioned plea for jurors to acquit his client of all 28 fraud and conspiracy counts against him. ''Because it's Enron. After all, somebody has to pay. It's Enron."
The trial is the premier case to emerge from the government's 4 1/2 year investigation into Enron's collapse. More than $60 billion in market value, almost $2.1 billion in pension plans, and 5,600 jobs were lost when the energy trading company failed.
In a searing closing argument, Petrocelli sought to drive home the defense's theme that neither Skilling nor Enron founder Kenneth Lay perpetuated an overarching fraud at the company because none existed.
Skilling told reporters outside the courthouse he was ''staggered" by the government's power to rack up cooperating witnesses, using the specter of prosecution.
But when asked if he was confident of acquittal, he said, ''I'm very confident. I'm innocent."
Yesterday's lengthy closing arguments were the last opportunities for the defendants' lawyers to address the eight-woman, four-man panel.
Prosecutors who made their closing arguments on Monday get one more chance in a rebuttal argument today. Then, jurors will begin deliberations in the case that began Jan. 30.
''I hope they [the jury] walked out of there today understanding that they learned a lot of facts and a lot of truth," Lay said.