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Archive for Sunday, January 16, 2005

Lawyers for ex-Westar exec argue to be allowed at possible 2nd trial

January 16, 2005

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— Defense attorneys for former Westar executive Douglas Lake say they acted professionally during Lake's first trial and should not be restricted from being in the courtroom if a second trial is held.

The U.S. attorney's office has not decided whether to try Lake and David Wittig again on 40 charges alleging that they looted Westar while they worked as top executives at the Kansas utility. Until late 2002, Wittig was chief executive officer, president and chairman of the board, and Lake was executive vice president of strategic planning.

The first trial, which included disputes between defense attorneys and U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, ended Dec. 20 with a hung jury.

After that trial, the U.S. attorney's office filed a motion asking that, if a second trial is held, Robinson limit the number of attorneys in the courtroom during opening and closing statements to only those making the arguments.

Federal prosecutor Rich Hathaway said in the motion that a person called for jury duty during the first trial complained that defense team members sneered and glared at the potential juror while he or she was questioned by the defense.

Hathaway said the defense attorneys also were disruptive as witnesses testified and during opening and closing arguments.

Limiting the number of attorneys would "assist in preventing the distraction of any future jury from the evidence and argument in this case," Hathaway wrote in the motion.

In an answer filed Wednesday, Lake defense attorneys Gaye Tibbets, of Wichita, and Edward J.M. Little, of New York, denied that any of Lake's attorneys behaved in "any way other than purely professionally toward the jury. Indeed, it simply defies reason to think that experienced, professional attorneys would seek to alienate jurors in any way, let alone by sneering or glaring at them."

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