NEW YORK (CNN) - We're in the fifth and final week of the Andersen trial in Houston, and the defense is about to rest its case. The prosecutors will deliver a brief rebuttal, we're told, and then closing arguments, which should conclude Wednesday. We're now only days away from a verdict, and no one with whom I've spoken is confident of the outcome. That's quite a reversal from just a few weeks ago, when seemingly almost every newspaper in the country was accepting as true every word the Justice Department leaked to their reporters.
But the facts are now catching up with the claims... and not one person in this trial has testified that they intended to keep evidence from the Securities and Exchange Commission. And not one witness has testified that they felt they or anyone else had done anything wrong in October and November of last year. And to me, most telling of all, the Justice Department has not produced a single witness that would say anyone in the management of Andersen had any involvement in anything remotely improper... let alone illegal.
I have no idea how this jury will vote... and it may all come down to their impression of the government's star witness, David Duncan. Duncan, with the help of the Justice Department, decided he was guilty of obstruction of justice... but it took him six months to come to that conclusion, and then only after Andersen had fired him, and only after a lot of time spent with agents of the FBI, the SEC, the IRS, and of course the Justice Department prosecutors who offered him immunity for his pleading. But the true tragedy is that in this trial, whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, there is no change in the outcome for an 85,000 person firm... they were punished months ago.