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Ken Lay's Death

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Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 6, 2006; 11:00 AM

Washington Post staff writer Carrie Johnson was online to discuss the death and legacy of former Enron executive Kenneth L. Lay.

A transcript follows.

Coverage on Enron's collapse and the legal proceedings against its former executives is available in a special report online here.

Photo Gallery: Kenneth Lay Dies at 64

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Carrie Johnson: Good morning. Thanks for all of the questions already in the queue on this extraordinary development in the business fraud case of the (young) century.

I'll try to answer as many of your inquiries as possible and to weed out the conspiracy theories (which ran rampant yesterday) from the facts that we know so far from authorities in Colorado. Let's go.

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Sterling, VA: Do you know if an autopsy will be done on Key Lay?

Carrie Johnson: Hi Sterling.

A forensic pathologist in Colorado already performed a prelminary autopsy on Ken Lay's body. Yesterday, the pathologist, Robert Kurtzman, went before the TV cameras to say that Lay died of natural causes and that he had coronary disease. The doctor said Lay's heart showed evidence of a prior cardiac event.

In Colorado, in such cases, authorities automatically do a toxicology screen, the results of which will be available in a few weeks, a sheriff's deputy in Pitkin County told me yesterday.

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Hyattsville, MD: Can the government recover Lay's assets now, or will it be more difficult now that he is dead. Will the family be able to profit from Lay's fraud?

Carrie Johnson: Legal experts conclude that it will be far more difficult for the government and shareholders to recover Lay's assets.

For one thing, due to the state of federal law in Texas, Lay's lawyers can move to have the jury verdict thrown out, because he is not available to carry forward his appeal. That means prosecutors likely can't prevail in a criminal forfeiture proceeding and that they will have to file a separate civil lawsuit against Lay's estate to try to recover some of the $43.5 million they say he plundered from Enron.

It's unclear how much the Lay family has in terms of assets. Lay told the jury that he was in debt to the tune of $250,000 but federal prosecutors dispute that, saying he has a $5 million Houston penthouse apartment and a $6.3 million Goldman Sachs investment, among other things.

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Germantown, MD: He was convicted but not sentenced. Why was the sentencing put off for so long, is that normal? Will his estate be liable for any fines or will they get away with it all?

Carrie Johnson: It is normal for there to be several weeks, if not months, between conviction and sentencing. During this period of time, defense lawyers and prosecutors argue over several issues including the amount of the loss the defendant caused to others. Lay and Skilling also needed to meet with probation officials who prepared a report for the judge on their criminal history, their educational background, and other issues. That report helps the judge decide what type of sentence to impose.

See above for answer to your question about assets. Criminal fines are out of the question now, but prosecutors are likely to proceed in a civil lawsuit, as is the SEC. But their job will be more difficult since they will have to try to prove Lay broke the law, rather than simply introducing the jury verdict as evidence.

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Miami, Fla.: Is suicide suspected in Mr. Lay's death Or was he known to be a cardiac patient?

Carrie Johnson: I watched Ken Lay closely during the course of this year's trial. He looked older, and more tired, and thinner, but he did not outwardly show any signs of heart trouble.

That said, I do not have access to his medical records and it is quite possible that he had a previous heart attack, as the pathologist suggested yesterday. We are awaiting a more full comment from his family, which is grieving in Colorado as we speak.

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Billings, Mt: Was Mr. Lay going to be a witness against anyone else in a plea arrangment to get his sentence reduced?

Carrie Johnson: No, Lay had not reached any kind of agreement with prosecutors. In a very real sense, he was the man at the top. There was no one else (i.e. a bigger fish) at Enron against whom he could testify even if he so desired. Lay, for his part, strongly maintained his innocence.

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Washington DC : Has there been an official medical report on the cause of death ? Was Lay taken to hospital.

Carrie Johnson: Sheriff's deputies released a statement yesterday indicating that they were called to the rental property around 1:41 a.m. Mountain time. They transported Lay to the hospital and he was pronounced dead at 3:11 a.m. As is customary, according to Joe DiSalvo of the sheriff's office, his body was taken to Grand Junction, Co., for autopsy. The autopsy report has not become public yet but the pathologist conducted a brief news conference yesterday in which he said Lay likely died of coronary artery disease.

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Houston, TX: Why did it take so long to reach the hospital?

Carrie Johnson: It's not clear how long it took to reach the hospital. But I draw a different conclusion about the timeline. The statement did not say how long it took to reach the facility. Indeed I suspect that doctors worked on Lay for quite a while there before pronouncing him dead at 3:11 Mountain time yesterday morning.

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Des Moines, Iowa: I don't believe this one at all.

I recommend there be proof beyond any doubt that this Ken Lay is dead and there is not a double being used so that Ken Lay can hide somewhere with all the money he stole.

He was convicted of fraud, etc. and could have been sentenced to life. Look at the timing of this death.

He has the financial resources and powerful friends (Bush family, etc.) to pull off a fraudulent death to escape justice.

There must be an independent source allowed to verify the death of Ken Lay. I wouldn't trust any government entity that would say it is Ken Lay that is dead!

Carrie Johnson: Many people on the Internet and elsewhere have remarked on what they perceive to be the convenient timing of Lay's death months before he faced criminal sentencing.

The Pitkin Co. sheriff's office, the hospital in Colorado, and a forensic pathologist in a nearby county all say there was no sign of foul play and that it appears Lay died of natural causes. We'll know more in weeks when the toxicology screen comes back.

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Fairfax, Virginia: Who declared Lay's death was the result of a heart attack.? That result was reported almost immediately after his death. How was that possible.? Ken Mayer

Carrie Johnson: His pastor, Steve Wende, of Houston's First United Methodist Church, spoke with Lay's wife after the death and told reporters an apparent heart attack felled Lay. A family spokeswoman said the same thing, which was confirmed in a preliminary way yesterday by the pathologist in Colorado.

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Washington, DC: Now that Mr. Lay is dead, is it possible his nemesis, Sherron Watkins, will find a job?

Carrie Johnson: Sherron Watkins, who raised alarms about troubling accounting practices and predicted the company would implode in a wave of accounting scandals, testified against Lay and his former protege Jeff Skilling during the criminal trial. She now earns a living making speeches and consulting.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Carrie,

I was wondering if there has been any word on how the defense lawyers' fees will be paid out of the estate and what is left in the estate, if anything.

Carrie Johnson: Good question.

Lay's insurance policies helped pay his legal bills, but defense lawyers are still owed more than $1 million, last I heard. It is unclear how and whether those bills will ever be paid. As for what is left in the estate, Lay would probably say very little. He and his wife sold properties in Aspen and Galveston and they lived full time in a condo unit in the Huntingdon, a luxury building in downtown Houston. Don't forget about that $6.3 million Goldman Sachs investment either.

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Fort Lauderdale: Isn't Lay's death -- and the inevitable questioning of circumstances that might have brought on his coronary -- a strong argument for his having been immediately jailed, without getting the summer off to frolic in a tony mountain resort area with friends and family. At the very last, perhaps he should have been compelled to stay in sweltering Houston.

Carrie Johnson: Perhaps so--the judge allowed Lay to travel to Colorado while he was out on $5 million bond pending his sentencing on October 23. After the sentencing, Lay's friends told me, he fully expected to be taken into custody, perhaps for the rest of his life.

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Fort Atkinson, WI: Foul play definitely ruled out?

Carrie Johnson: The pathologist yesterday told us there were "no signs" of foul play. Toxicology screen results perhaps will help close the door on this issue.

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Mesa, Az: Do you think they will still go after his assets?

Carrie Johnson: Federal prosecutors at the Justice Department's Enron Task Force yesterday declined comment out of respect for the Lay family. We are all awaiting a statement on how and whether they will proceed, but the government may be a few days away, at least, from signaling its intentions.

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Bosque Farms, NM: What is the the liklihood that Lay's estate will be ordered to forfeit its formidible, ill-gotten fortune? How about Skilling?

Carrie Johnson: Already answered the Lay part.

As to Skilling, who sold more than half of his Enron stock holdings before the bankruptcy in December 2001, federal authorities are zealously pursuing millions of dollars he has in real estate, cash, and investments. The government wants more than $100 million it claims is the fruit of the fraud at Enron.

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Old Town, Va.: Some people may be thinking what I'm thinking so I'm just going to type it: what are the chances that this was induced? Like using those drugs that produce a cardiac arrest and don't come through on an autopsy? Kenny Boy didn't seem to be one for the Big House and with the resources at his disposal, it's very difficult not to see this as a very real possibility. Your thoughts? Thanks.

Carrie Johnson: At this point, authorities are painting the death as stemming from natural causes. And there's no doubt Lay was under tremendous stress and angst as he watched his life as he knew it disintegrate before his eyes. Let's wait and see what the tox. screen says.

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Houston, TX: Does the death of KL mean the civil suit has to start from ground zero: i.e. prior criminal conviction cannot be used as a foundation?

Carrie Johnson: Yes, that's exactly what it means, as far as I understand.

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Houston, Tex.: Hey, Lauderdale - "sweltering Houston" isn't some kind of jail sentence! haha.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks, Houston!

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The point you missed: "The Pitkin Co. sheriff's office, the hospital in Colorado, and a forensic pathologist in a nearby county all say there was no sign of foul play and that it appears Lay died of natural causes."

The previous questioner's point was: HOW DO YOU KNOW IT'S LAY ON THE SLAB?

Your generation is too gullible. Men like Lay are capable of great things - including vanishing acts into thin air.

Do DNA and every other forenisc test one can imagine. This guy shouldn't cheat America, even in "death."

From an older generation

Carrie Johnson: Thanks for counting me among the younger generation but to believe your theory, lots of officials in Colorado must be misguided at best, conspiring at worst.

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Washington, DC: Hi Carrie -- It's John H. from your old buddy group. INteresting case, but I agree with what many people have said in that this smacks of foul play. At the risk of sounding like a dreaded conspiracy theorist, how do we know that the body is actually Ken Lays? He had more money than almost anyone else and could probably have paid to pull a fast one. Just a thought, but I think it is important for the public to know beyond doubt that Ken LAy is dead, otherwise it will look another rich guy got away with it and is laughing it up on some desrted island somewhere.

hope you are well and coming back to DC soon.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks John!

I think the results of the toxicology screen, the upcoming memorial service in Houston (arrangements to be determined) and perhaps a written autopsy report may help tamp down some of the theories out there.

It is a mark of how Enron and Ken Lay have come to stand for something very big, that so many people are following his death and have so many strong opinions about it.

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Washington, DC: Hello Ms. Johnson,

Do you think this turn of events will help or hurt Mr. Lay's codefendant, Mr. Skilling? Will the public pressure to draw blood over this mess possibly cause JS to be dealth with more harshly, or will sympathy give him a break?

Carrie Johnson: Hard to say what U.S. District Judge Simeon Lake will do in October, but the judge is known already as a tough sentencer and Skilling faces more than 20 years at the outset given the enormous losses employees and investors suffered after Enron's collapse into bankruptcy.

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Sherman Oaks, Ca.: Does America understand the word 'compassion'? Or do we just focus on stock values? How quickly we lose mercy and grace for our fellow-man.

Sue Sabas

Carrie Johnson: Thanks for your comment. Ken Lay had a wife of 24 years, five children and a dozen grandchildren, all of whom are grieving right now.

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Fort Lauderdale: Hello: Am appalled by reports elsewhere that because Lay died before sentencing, his conviction might well be vacated.

Wouldn't this be a huge flaw in the justice system? ... The possibility that if convicted (with chances slim on appeal), that a convicted felon can preserve assets and prevent being sentenced via an early alternative checkout -- while out on bond vacationing somehere cushy?

Ideally, Lay would be sentenced in absentia, and the feds can move ahead on seizing his estate's ill-gotten gains.

What's ahead realistically? Thanks in advance for your insight.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks Fort Lauderdale.

The law is pretty clear on this point. Because our system wants to err on the side of caution, convictions are thrown out if a defendant dies before he has exhausted his appeals. As a general rule, the legal system also frowns upon punishing dead people or their estates.

If you want to read more about this, check out a 2004 case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. vs. Andrew C. Parsons.

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arlington, va: If my husband committed fraud and deceit, harmed thousands of innocent people because of his greed, as a result was going to take my standard of living and that of my kids with him, and promised me a retirement of visiting him in the penitentiary as the golden years of our marriage, I'd think about knocking him off. Wonder if Mrs. Lay had some similar feelings.

Carrie Johnson: Yikes. I hope you're not serious.

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Frankfurt / Germany: will his family be able to claim back the bail that was paid?

Carrie Johnson: Yes--Lay was free on $5 million bond at the time of his death, guaranteed with the deeds of the homes of his children. They will receive those deeds and the bond will be canceled.

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Baltimore, MD: Did you hear the one going around about Ken Lay's death? Seems that the state of California is going to turn out all the lights for three hours.

Carrie Johnson: You guys are a tough crowd.

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Savannah, Ga.: Of course Lay's "family is grieving." You don't have to tell us that. We're here to talk about his death's impact on whether or not his victims get justice. Which apparently, according to you, they won't.

Carrie Johnson: Oh, I thought perhaps it would be a helpful reminder for some of our audience? Thanks.

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Bowie, MD: I'm just curious,

Why wasn't Mr. Lay in prison after being found quilty on all counts?

Why was he at home?

Carrie Johnson: Lay was out, on bond, awaiting his criminal sentence, which was to be handed down Oct. 23. The judge gave him permission to stay in Houston or to travel to his vacation spot in Colorado, but Lay had to turn over his passport and promise not to flee.

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Kansas City: Money can buy a lot of cooperation. A man who would easily take the retirements away from so many employees would have no conscience about buying his way out of jail. People with far less money have done that. By the way - I wonder how many of his company retirees have suffered heart attacks?

Carrie Johnson: This is a good question. Clearly Enron's collapse and the attendant loss of retirement savings and pensions exacted a heavy toll on employees, many of whom got less than $5,000 in severance.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: Carrie, sorry for the cynicism--I'm the one who wrote in your chat months ago that Ken Lay would never spend a day in prison--but will the public be given evidence that Mr. Lay is dead and not laughing it up in Costa Rica rather than lolling around in that playground of the ultrarich, Aspen? Let's at least mandate an open casket.

Your colleague, Steve Pearlstein, described Lay's demise today as "tragic." Isn't the real tragedy the tens of thousands of employees and shareholders who Lay convinced to hold onto their stock even as he was dumping his? Those poor souls will spend their retirement as Wal-Mart greeters and lunch shift burger flippers at McDonald's. So sad.

washingtonpost.com: Steven Pearlstein: Ken Lay's Optimism Was Outpaced by Reality

Carrie Johnson: Thanks very much for your comment, Dunn Loring, and for so closely following the trial and its aftermath.

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Zurich, Switzerland: Will the estate of Kenneth Lay then be responsible for his debts?

Carrie Johnson: Some plaintiffs in shareholder suits already have signaled they will not proceed against Lay's estate. Trey Davis, a spokesman for the University of California, the plaintiff in the biggest such case, yesterday told me the lawyers would likely drop Lay from their case.

But the Securities and Exchange Commission will proceed as will some other plaintiffs.

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Panama City, FL: Do you think there could be foul play? He was to perhaps present a great danger to others (i.e. Cheney) with possible plea bargains. There are medications available that when taken can appear like a heart attack has occurred.

Carrie Johnson: Ken Lay was not engaged in plea negotiations with the government at the time of his death. As for medications Lay may have consumed, we'll have to await the results of blood tests performed by the coroner yesterday.

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Munich, Germany: "Thanks for your comment. Ken Lay had a wife of 24 years, five children and a dozen grandchildren, all of whom are grieving right now. "

Ken Lay also put many wives, children and grandchildren through untold sorrow when his actions led to the loss of jobs, life savings, and much more. For all we know, the stresses his actions led to may have caused numerous other deaths by heart attack. Who will speak for these people?

Carrie Johnson: I think you are right now.

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Hanover, New Hampshire: Can you please tell me the status of the prison terms that were supposed to have been served by Andy Fastow and wife Lea as part of their plea bargain agreement?

Carrie Johnson: Hello Hanover.

Lea Fastow, the wife of former Enron finance chief Andy Fastow, already served a one-year prison sentence for underreporting income from her husband's partnerships.

Andy Fastow is to be sentenced next month. He pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges a few years ago, testified against Lay and Skilling, and is likely to receive a 10-year sentence pursuant to his plea deal.

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Spotsylvania, VA: I believe that a lot of people including the ones responding on this session feel that Mr. Lay's crass behavior and absolute 'let them eat cake' attitude towards all the people he defrauded makes him somehow less worthy of compassion or pity. I want to be compassionate, but I think of all the lives he has decimated and it makes it just that much harder. I wonder what others feel about this?

Carrie Johnson: Thoughts?

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Washington, DC: How about compassion for all the people hurt by Ken Lay's criminal activity???? His family may be grieving but they are grieving poshly at those people's expense and the expense of the American taxpayers at large due to Ken Lay's crimes. I am sorry they lost a family member but from what you have said, his family is going to reap the rewards of crime and not have to fork over a penny of their pirated gains.

Carrie Johnson: More thoughts...

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Washington, DC: Ken Lay, convicted by a jury of his peers, clearly deserved a strong jail term.

But the reaction to Ken Lay's death shows me that those who believe in compassion apparently only extend it so far (for violent criminals with poor upbringing, yes, for rich business types who cheat people, no).

Lots of Bush-hatred here too (for those who forget, Enron had many friends in the Clinton Administration as well and lefty economist/columnist Paul Krugman was an adviser).

Carrie Johnson: Thank you for your comment.

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Boonsboro, MD: I've been in Houston in the summer, it is a jail term...

Carrie Johnson: Thanks MD.

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Bethesda, MD: Yes, the real tragedy in all of this is the destruction of hopes and dreams of Enron employees who worked hard for the company.

I'm curious, does Lay have a will?

Carrie Johnson: I don't know if Lay has a will but it would surely be surprising if a man of his age, stature, and (at least former) wealth died intestate.

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Laurel, MD: I don't understand why people are having such a hard time believing that Ken Lay has died of a heart attack. When the jury convicted Lay of so many criminal counts, it was clear that they handed him a death sentence, because no matter how lenient the judge was during sentencing, it was likely that Lay would die in prison. And it is probably the stress of realizing that he was going to spend the rest of his life behind bars that brought on Lay's heart attack. Please, don't get me wrong. I have been a zealous advocate for the thorough prosecution of all the Enron criminals. And I think that they mostly got what they deserved. I just don't know why people are having such a hard time believing that the stress of a criminal trial and the prospect of spending the remainder of one's life in prison wouldn't cause a heart attack or stroke.

Carrie Johnson: Thank you Laurel.

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Durham, NC: "Ken Lay had a wife of 24 years, five children and a dozen grandchildren, all of whom are grieving right now. "

all of them have been living the high life off the hard work of people who can no longer afford to retire and have had their life savings taken away by Kenny Boy.

sorry, but there's no sympathy here for the Lay family....

Maybe if they voluntarily gave all the money back....

Carrie Johnson: Feedback

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Oxford, MS: I think Fort Lauderdale might understand the rationale behind throwing out post-mortem, un-appealed convictions by pondering this hypothetical: You are convicted of something you didn't do. While you are standing before the microphones swearing to appeal, someone shoots you. You die.

Should your family be held responsible?

Carrie Johnson: Thanks Oxford.

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When I was in the Navy..: .. crybabies got a chit to go to the "weep locker". Perhaps you could issue them on your website for those who want to shed tears for the untimely death of Ken Lay.

I guess it's better than cying in your mashed potatoes.

Maybe you should think about the millions of Ken Lay victims out here. Including the State of California.

Vietnam Era Draftee/Veteran

Carrie Johnson: Thanks.

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Ryan (Columbia, MD): For me, I believe that everything happens for a reason and it's possible that Lay got what he deserved since he ruined so many lives with his corruption. I feel that justice was done and that it saves the taxpayers a lot of money had he lived for 10 to 20 more years. What is your reaction to Ken Lay's death? Do you think that taxpayers should be happy with this outcome despite the conviction possibly being expunged from the records?

Carrie Johnson: I think the whole story, from beginning to end, is terribly sad.

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Washington, DC: I'm convinced Lay committed suicide and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. And I'm not shedding any tears for him, either.

Still, Henry Allen's piece today was unbecoming an adult newspaper. I expect this kind of immature and frankly disturbing revenge fantasy from the likes of Democratic Underground.

washingtonpost.com: From Style: Ken Lay's Last Evasion

Carrie Johnson: Thanks for your thoughts about our coverage.

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Chicago: What do you think of Tony Snow's refusal to even let someone else refer to Lay as a friend of George W. Bush's, and go out of his way to insist that Bush and "Kenny Boy" were only "acquaintances"? Pretty nice see-you-later, no?

Carrie Johnson: In the law, there is an expression: the thing speaks for itself. (I'd type it in Latin, but my spelling is atrocious.)

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death by heart attack: suicide by ommission of taking meds a possibility? clean way out.

if properties are titled in wife/kids names are they untouchable?

Carrie Johnson: It's possible, I suppose. I don't know what medications Lay was prescribed or was taking (or not taking) at the time of his death.

Some legal experts suggest that if Lay's family received fruits of the fraud the government and plaintiff lawyers might be able to yank them back. But doing such an analysis requires a lot of work.

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Arlington, VA: Carrie, has there been any talk if good ole W is going to attend Kenny Boy's funeral? And is the funeral going to be public? I wonder about protestors....

Carrie Johnson: I seriously doubt if the President will attend the Lay memorial service, which is to take place in Houston at the First United Methodist Church. The family has not yet announced the details of the service (including time and date). Worth mentioning that former President Bush (#41) put out a nice statement on Ken Lay's death yesterday.

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Washington, DC: The reason that the rich tend to get less compassion in terms of criminal activity versus poorer defendants is that, as OJ and many others have proved, you get the best defense you can pay for not necessarily the best defense period. Once a poor defendant is convicted, he/she is in jail, while the rich, as so eloquently exemplified by Ken Lay, vacation. Compassion wanes when it is recognized that not only will Mr. Lay not pay for his crimes in our penal system, but that the money he de-frauded will be used to enrich his progeny. This has nothing to do with Bush, but with a system that rewards those with money and stomps on those without.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks for your thoughts.

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New York, New York: KL's "grieving family" should show some compassion by donating a large portion of his estate to the families left destitute by the crimes of Lay and his Enron cronies.

Carrie Johnson: A suggestion from New York.

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St Peters, PA: Man, people are paranoid! If Ken Lay had enough power and influence to pay off at least two separate coroners, a hospital staff, the police that were called to the scene, not to mention flee the country without a passport, while just leaving his whole family behind and expecting them to put on a good show while keeping this crazy secret, why wouldn't he have just snuck a spoiler into his jury or bought off the judge?

People watch too many Oliver Stone movies. Seriously.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks, St. Peters.

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New Hampshire: Thanks for taking my question, Carrie.

I have heard that the convictions will be set aside due to the fact that Ken Lay is unable to mount an appeal.

To me, this fact makes it a bit suspicious that Lay may have taken his own life or that something more nefarious may have happened. Many substances can cause a heart attack and be difficult to detect unless a thorough autopsy is performed. Yesterday's autopsy was done in a amazingly quick timeframe. I wonder if the toxicology and microscopic tissue analyisis is still outstanding. Do you think there is any possibility that more will emerge?

Carrie Johnson: There is a possibility that more will emerge.

But Joe DiSalvo, head of investigations at the county sheriff's office, yesterday told me that autopsies in that part of the country are performed quickly as a matter of routine. The tox. screen is still outstanding, and it won't be ready for weeks, DiSalvo said.

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Incredulity: Ken Lay's Optimism Was Outpaced by Reality

By Steven Pearlstein

Lay was a criminal. He ruined the lives of thousands of people. He urged trusting employees to buy more Enron stock even as he was dumpint it. He wore a suit and had old-world manners so it's ok? It's ok because he was not a street criminal?

Carrie Johnson: I don't think my wise colleague Steve Pearlstein reached the conclusion you sugest.

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A different Washington, DC: Washington DC said "I'm convinced Lay committed suicide and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise."

How sad! No one has the patience or mind for facts anymore. So when the tox screen comes back negative and the coroner rules definitively that there was no foul play, Washington will still think Lay killed himself (and thus will be forced to think of the coroner as either a fool or a liar)? Why? What's the point? It amazes me that people anymore only want to hear facts that back up their speculation. The age of reason is over, I guess.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks DC...

My talented and ever-patient web producer Kyle Balluck tells me we have received 162 questions so far on this topic. Reaction is heated and powerful. It will stay that way for a while, is my best guess.

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Washington, DC: I am somewhat appalled by the almost joyous reaction to this death, in between the conspiracy theorists. Not being perfect, I try not to judge as harshly as some. He was convicted of some serious crimes, but I just can't take joy at another person's death. It all makes me very sad. Sometimes I think we have become a society that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Thanks.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks!

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Tulsa, OK: It is clear that all of Lay's friends, connections, wealthl, etc. didn't do him one bit of good before the bar of justice. He was convicted, and if he would have lived, he would have gone to prison for a very long time.

Carrie Johnson: Thanks, Tulsa.

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Chicago, IL: One intriguing element not yet discussed is that George W. might have pardoned Kenneth Lay when he left office. Can't pardon a dead man. Pardoning Lay would have opened Bush to criticism that he will now not have to face. The White House might not be too upset over his death, even if George and Ken were on a first-name basis.

Carrie Johnson: The one tiny bright spot I hoped that Lay's death would bring was an end to questions about pardons. But alas, I was wrong.

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Fairfax, VA: Compassion isn't in the offing.

Mr. Lay's fidelity to his wife and his admirable qualities as a grandfather are not at issue here. What we have here--or suppose we have--is the death of a notorious convicted felon.

A timely death at that; now his estate might be shielded from the restitution that he himself might have been compelled to render to the victims of his crimes, had he lived.

Carrie Johnson: Feedback

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LA, CA: I wonder why it is that you make a political opinion of saying that the Bush admin. did nothing to help Lay. This regime helped their friend to plunder the anti-Bush states of the west coast of billions of dollars by allowing a fake energy crisis, produced as we now know from the transcripts of Enron and other employees talking about their crimes, by Enron and the other Bush-connected criminal gangs based in Texas. Why do you and the Post constantly bend over for these people who are trying to run you out of business even while Fred and the rest cheerlead for them?

Carrie Johnson: It was not intended to be a political statement, just a fact reported by the Washington Post and many other newspapers. I'm not aware that we have served as a cheerleader for anybody.

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Washington, DC: I think Ken Lay's prosecution was a good thing for America's working class families. It also sent a message that money can't necessarily keep you out of jail. Difficult question but do you think Ken Lay ever felt that he was responsible for what happened at Enron? Or do you think he would have always blamed it on subordinates?

Carrie Johnson: One of the biggest surprises of the trial, for me, was Lay's performance on the witness stand. He said he took responsibility for Enron's collapse but in the next breath he blamed lots of other people. I did not speak with him or see him after May 25, the day of the verdict, so I don't know if his thinking changed at all between then and the time of his death.

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Carrie Johnson: Sorry I was unable to answer all of your 184 (!) questions and comments. In life, Ken Lay was a controversial man and it seems to have followed him to his final day.

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