Jury Sends Flurry of Questions to Judge in Andersen Deliberations

Jurors in Arthur Andersen LLP's obstruction of justice trial sent out a stream of questions Thursday, but ended their deliberations without reaching a verdict.

About an hour into Thursday's session, they sent U.S. District Court Judge Melinda Harmon a note hinting that each one of them believes someone at the Chicago-based firm had committed wrongdoing.

"If each of us believes that one Andersen agent acted knowingly and with corrupt intent, is it for all of us to believe it was the same agent?" the note said. "Can one believe it was Agent A, another believe it was Agent B, and another believe it was Agent C?"

Harmon said late Thursday she needed to review more case law before deciding how to answer the note, which caused a vibrant courtroom debate.

"As long as they agree on the bottom line, it isn't necessary for them to agree on the same actor," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Weissmann argued.

But Andersen's attorneys said jurors needed to be unanimous about the criminal intent of one person before they could convict the firm in the first criminal trial to emerge from Enron Corp.'s stunning fall last year.

Jurors, deliberating for an eighth day, also sent requests to review evidence presented during the monthlong trial.

They wanted to see a training video on document retention policies again, plus hear testimony from witnesses including David Duncan, Andersen's former top Enron auditor, about discussions of Enron losses and possible restatement of earnings.

Harmon said jurors could view the videotape in the jury room.

After the attorneys agreed on what passages to be read from Ripepi's testimony, the jury heard a 90-minute reading. Most jurors took notes. Lawyers later hashed out what parts of Duncan's testimony would be reprised for the jury. Those excerpts were to be read starting Friday.

The flurry of queries came a day after jurors sent a note -- their first communication with the court in three days -- saying they could not reach a unanimous decision. Harmon urged the jurors to keep trying.

The Andersen accounting firm is accused of shredding documents and wiping out computer records related to Enron last year to thwart a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of the energy company's accounting practices.

The firm argues its employees shredded documents to comply with a long-standing company policy of eliminating unnecessary and outdated materials.

Andersen faces fines if convicted. It also could be barred from auditing publicly traded companies -- likely putting it out of business.