Some jurors glad Blagojevich will be tried again
Despite expense, at least some jurors glad Rod Blagojevich will face another trial
Federal prosecutors aren’t alone in wanting a retrial after the jury deadlocked on all but one count at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial.
Some jurors also want to see the impeached Democratic governor back in court and have expressed frustration that the panel of six women and six men could not agree on additional counts, including allegations that he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s old senate seat.
“I’m glad there is going to be (a retrial),” juror Cynthia Parker, 60, said outside her home in the Chicago suburb of Gurnee. “I don’t feel it’s finished.”
Parker said she joined most other jurors in voting to convict Blagojevich of the alleged Senate seat scheme. Several jurors have said they were just one vote shy of a conviction.
The retrial promises to be as circus-like and nearly as expensive as the first trial. And in a state with a huge budget deficit, some people would prefer not to see it at all.
But the next round could look different if prosecutors adjust their strategy after listening to the jurors who deadlocked. And despite their defiance after the verdict, defense attorneys could offer a few surprises too Ã¢â‚¬â€ if they are still on the job.
Could prosecutors decide to call witnesses such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel? Could the defense finally put Blagojevich on the stand?
Asked the latter question, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said, “The answer to that is, absolutely yes. It doesn’t mean he will. But he could.”
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the prosecution is nearly ready to start jury selection, and the presiding judge set a hearing on the matter for Aug. 26.
Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. blasted Fitzgerald for insisting on a second trial, questioning the expense. His father, Sam Adam Sr., called Fitzgerald “nuts.”
“I wish this entire group would go upstairs and ask Fitzgerald one question: I understand he’s got an important job, but why are we spending 25 to 30 million dollars on a retrial? You couldn’t prove it the first time,” said Sam Adam Jr., who did not explain how he arrived at that figure.
But it’s unknown whether either of the two flamboyant lawyers will still represent Blagojevich in a second trial.
According to Sorosky, all of Blagojevich’s attorneys who went through the just-ended trial want to stay with him. But money, as well as various legal requirements, may determine whether that happens.
To pay his legal bills over recent months, the judge permitted Blagojevich to dip into a campaign fund dating back to his time as governor. But Sorosky said that well has run dry.
So Blagojevich’s attorneys may have to be paid as public defenders using tax dollars Ã¢â‚¬â€ at a rate of around $100 an hour, Sorosky said. That may lead the judge to try to cut Blagojevich’s legal team from more than half a dozen attorneys to just two or three.
Another consideration, he said, is that all of Blagojevich’s current lawyers have pushed aside dozens of other cases to represent the former governor.
“We have other clients and other judges screaming at us, saying, ‘Hey, what about our case?” Sorosky said. Some clients have had to wait in jail.
A lot depends on how prosecutors alter their approach. Many adjustments are likely to be small, addressing what many jurors complained was a complex, hard-to-follow case.
“They have to listen to what jurors are saying,” said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor. “If they’re saying it’s not clear … prosecutors may need to lay out a clearer road map.”
About half of the 12 jurors in the case have spoken publicly since Tuesday’s verdict, describing cordial but increasingly tense deliberations during which a lone holdout blocked a majority from a unanimous guilty vote on several counts, including Blagojevich’s alleged attempt to benefit from the Senate seat.
Others have declined to comment or have not appeared publicly. Relatives of one juror from Waukegan told reporters several times Wednesday she would not discuss the case. “She’s not going to talk about it,” said her son, Terrence Barrett, who lives near Edwardsville, Ill.
In rethinking strategy for the retrial, prosecutors may make far-reaching changes, such as calling witnesses who, like Emanuel, were not summoned for the first trial.
Another witness who was not called is convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, who prosecutors say was a key cog in Blagojevich’s alleged schemes. Rezko, a former fundraiser for both Blagojevich and Obama, could be an explosive witness Ã¢â‚¬â€ but one with little credibility. The same is true of Stuart Levine, a one-time Blagojevich fundraiser convicted in the same kickback scheme as Rezko.
In the first trial, the defense did not put on any witnesses, choosing instead to rest their case immediately after prosecutors concluded seven weeks of testimony.
Sorosky said they may do things differently at a retrial Ã¢â‚¬â€ depending on how prosecutors alter their attack.
“We respond to the offense,” he said. “So you may have a different defense in a different situation.”
If the current defense team stays together, Sorosky said, they could be ready for another trial in months. New defense attorneys might need more than a year.
A key for prosecutors will be to seat a jury more friendly to their case Ã¢â‚¬â€ or at least one where there’s no one likely to dig in their heels, as one jurors apparently did this week.
That may ultimately be a crap shoot, though, with attorneys on both sides having only a few opportunities to keep potential jurors off the panel.
And if a Blagojevich jury is hung after a second trial?
Said Cramer: “There’s a good chance they’d do it again Ã¢â‚¬â€ a third time.”
Associated Press Writer Carla K. Johnson and AP Video Journalist Mark Carlson contributed to this report.
Source: AP News
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