Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling wants his trial moved out of Houston because one-third of area residents polled associated his name with negatives like "pig," "snake," "economic terrorist" and the "financial equivalent of an ax murderer."
Skilling's co-defendants — ex-Chairman Ken Lay and former chief accounting officer Rick Causey — joined in the request. It argues there is pervasive anti-Enron prejudice in the Houston area, in part because of the stake this community had in Enron's fortunes and in part because of prejudicial publicity.
The filings showed that 31.8 percent of Houston area survey respondents used negative descriptions when asked about Skilling. That was about three times the percentage of people in Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix who came up with negative responses when asked about Skilling.
"He is the devil," said one Houston-area respondent.
"Jeff Skilling is an arrogant, conniving, pompous, brilliant crook," said another Texan surveyed by Philip K. Anthony's DecisionQuest firm.
There was also this amazing coincidence: "The filings showed that 31.8 percent of Houston area survey respondents used negative descriptions when asked about Skilling" and "...Houston-area respondents were at least twice as likely to know someone who has been harmed by Enron's fall. About 33 percent of the Houston respondents knew someone affected."
Could there be a correlation? Does personal knowledge of victims have anything to do with the public's perception of culpability?
And what's wrong with the other non-negative 68 percent? Why aren't they paying attention to their neighbors' misfortunes?