Politics

What's next in USA v. Rod Blagojevich?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Sam Adam Jr.

Jurors say prosecutors should try to simplify their case against former governor Rod Blagojevich for the retrial.

On Tuesday, jurors were deadlocked in 23 of the 24 counts against Blagojevich. Now prosecutors have to figure out where their case went wrong-- and fix it for the retrial.

The former governor was convicted on one count of making false statements, which has a sentence of up to five years-- but prosecutors aren't happy with the outcome.

Most of the legal analysts going into the Blagojevich trial felt that the count involving the alleged shakedown of the CEO at Children's Memorial Hospital might be the strongest element of the prosecution's case. However, the jury wound up split on that count 7-5. They were also significantly split on other counts.

But on the count involving the alleged scheme to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat, jurors voted 11 to 1 in favor of conviction. Those numbers are important as the lawyers read what the jurors concluded, which plays into how the government structures take two in USA v. Blagojevich.

The foreman says there is regret that his jury was unable to come to finality.

"I do have that. I believe there are other jurors that have the same feeling even though the judge told us we didn't fail," said James Matsumoto, jury foreman.

As a juror, James Matsumoto reached his conclusions. As the foreman, he tried to guide an intelligent, independent minded jury.

In the end, on those counts alleging Rod Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat, Matsumoto and ten other jurors agreed that the ex governor was guilty-- but one juror didn't agree and ultimately could not be swayed.

"She just saw everything so different. I think one analogy she used was, 'I seen green. Everyone tells me it's red. It's still green to me,'" said Erik Sarnello, jury member.

There was frustration, there were raised voices on occasion, but the hold-out juror felt that Blagojevich's recorded conversations amounted to political horse-trading - not a crime.

"The juror that did hold out taught me a lot about courage and conviction, and also her opinion was as valid as mine was," said Matsumoto.

So while there was disappointment, Matsumoto says there is no animosity aimed at the hold-out juror. Among those jurors who are speaking out - there is agreement that the government should retry the case.

"I realize that people feel this is gonna cost too much money but you let someone get away with this it's not right. They have enough evidence, it's how they put it together and also a whole different jury and you could get a jury to agree," said Matsumoto.

The jurors say the timeline was confusing; the charges and applicable laws were very difficult to understand; and that USA versus Blagojevich needs to be simplified.

"It was more complex than anybody expected" said Ralph Schindler, jury member.

The father and son team of Sam Adam junior and senior have indicated they will not stay on as Blagojevich's defense attorneys for the retrial. However, the former governor's campaign fund, which paid them, is now exhausted, which means taxpayers would pick up the tab at $110/hour. That's what the Adams received for the first trial.

Judge James Zagel, who presided over the case, has the authority to require the Adams to stay on because they are familiar with the complex case.

"I'm sure he's gonna evaluate if he's gonna have some lawyers carry on because they're somewhat up to speed," said Richard Kling, Kent College of Law.

Requiring a lawyer to stay on a caseand sacrifice a practice he's essentially put on hold for a year is not something a judge decides lightly. But appointing someone from the federal public defender panel means the new lawyers would have to be brought up to speed on all those tapes and documents, which is a huge load.

A new jury must be picked. It'll take weeks to determine a pool of jurors for a likely two month trial. All this means a re-trial may have to wait until sometime in the New Year.

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rod blagojevich, politics, paul meincke
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