Friday, May 19, 2006

Just minutes after he had cross-examined Enron's former chief financial officer two months ago, Michael W. Ramsey, the lead lawyer for Kenneth L. Lay, turned to one of Mr. Lay's daughters. "I think I just had a heart attack," he half-jokingly told the daughter, Elizabeth Vittor, looking her in the eye across the defense table.

Mr. Ramsey said he thought the discomfort would subside in an hour. It did not.

Within days Mr. Ramsey was forced into surgery to clear an arterial blockage. For the 66-year-old, who describes himself as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking legal warhorse, it was the beginning of the most challenging personal odyssey of his career and an event that may turn out to play a crucial role in the outcome of Mr. Lay's case.