Jurors to remain anonymous in Blago trial

Ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrives at his home after pleading not guilty in federal court in Chicago, Tuesday, April 14, 2009. (Paul Beaty)

July 21, 2010 8:43:32 AM PDT
Jurors seated in the federal corruption trial for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will not be named until it's over.

Anonymous juries are typically associated with organized crime trials, or cases where defendants might be inclined to tamper with a jury or threaten to do them harm. But Judge James Zagel has decided that the Blagojevich jury will remain anonymous until it's over because publishing names and other personal information creates too much opportunity for jury members to be hounded electronically by people trying to influence their opinion. So during the trial, jury members will be designated by number only.

Also on Monday, a government court filing confirms Blagojevich friend and fundraiser Tony Rezko, who was convicted and then imprisoned almost two years ago, was providing information to the feds. It also shows that at least by November, Blagojevich was aware of that.

Prosecutors go on to say that because Rezko was talking, "Blagojevich strongly considered appointing himself to become senator because he felt that this would put him in a better position if he were indicted."

The government wants the ability to set the scene and explain specific roles in what they consider a conspiracy by the governor and others to line their own pockets.

Rezko has had another long time criminal case pending against him, and court records show he's scheduled to enter a guilty plea in that case June 2nd, the eve of jury selection in the Blagojevich trial. That suggests the possibility that Rezko would be called to testify against Blagojevich, but it's not yet clear whether that will happen.

The jury hearing the Blagojevich case will remain anonymous during the proceedings. Their identities and the questionnaires they will fill out before trial will not be released until trial's end.

Judge James Zagel - at a pre-trial planning discussion Monday- said the step is necessary to insure that the jurors have enough privacy to make a fair decision in this age of constant electronic communication.

Defense lawyers say they haven't discussed jury selection strategy yet, but they acknowledge it'll be critically important.

"We're not going to get jurors that don't know anything about the case. That's impossible in this case but we want jurors that haven't made up their mind. Even if they voted against him twice," said Sam Adam, Blagojevich attorney.

The Blagojevich teams is also going to try again at the argument that the trial ought to be delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its decision on the issue of criminal charges involving "honest services". They lost their previous efforts, but will file a motion Tuesday with the Supreme Court.


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