Draft jury instructions set in Blago trial

July 26, 2010 5:04:32 AM PDT
Lawyers on both sides battled over jury instructions Friday in the corruption trial of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The defense attorneys and prosecution both lobbied the judge on what they'd like him to tell the jury.

The draft instructions are more than 120 pages long. It constitutes the legal roadmap the jurors must follow when they begin their deliberations.

As roadmaps go, this is not a straight-line superhighway. It is more like a winding back road that might not entirely show up on your GPS device.

When the jury gets its instructions, more than 90 of them that lawyers agreed to this afternoon, the jurors will use them to figure out what constitutes a conspiracy, what is racketeering, and whether the government proved these things beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury's interpretation of intent is probably most important.

If they believe that the former governor really did intend to trade the Senate seat for personal benefit and did something to make that happen, he could be found guilty, even though a trade never occurred.

That possibility is why the defense team has been strenuously arguing that the former governor was venting or brainstorming, and never intended to break the law.

Closing arguments are set for Monday. On Tuesday, the judge will read the jurors their instructions.

They will get hard copies as well, which is a good thing because some of the language is enough to make even a lawyer's eyes glaze over.

There will be some sort of instructions to the jury regarding Rod Blagojevich's decision not to testify in his own defense.

The defendant has a right not to testify, and that should not be held against him. That is a standard instruction, but in this case, even the judge said he is a little bit leery of the situation because of the public pledges beforehand and Rod Blagojevich's attorney saying he would testify, which did not happen.


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