Blagojevich jury deadlocked on unknown counts

August 12, 2010 6:26:01 AM PDT
The jury deliberating the fate of former governor Rod Blagojevich cannot agree unanimously on an unknown number of counts, according to a note sent to the judge Wednesday.

Jurors asked for guidance after failing to reach an agreement on all counts, Judge James Zagel said. He did not release a copy of the note, but read it in court. It's the first time Judge Zagel had heard from the jury in more than a week.

The note-- which does not indicate if they disagree on all counts, some counts, or acts under the counts-- asked the judge, "What should the next logical step be?" after deliberating "beyond reasonable attempt... without rancor."

Judge Zagel replied with a note asking which counts they can't agree on and if they'd gone through all 24. He wrote, in part, "I need clarifications."

Neither the prosecution nor defense objected to Judge Zagel's reply. Both were called to the courthouse to hear the question, along with the former governor and his brother and codefendant, Robert Blagojevich.

Those anxiously awaiting the verdict had hoped the question shed some light into what's going on behind closed doors in the jury room. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

"I didn't understand the note. I understood it to be that they can't make a decision and it seemed like every count was a specific act and we just don't know what it means," said Michael Ettinger, attorney for Robert Blagojevich. "I would rather be acquitted than have a hung jury but a hung jury is better than a conviction."

"I don't know. I don't know. What do you think? Your opinion matters, too," said Robert Blagojevich.

Jurors said they will have a reply ready for Judge Zagel on Thursday, but then called it a day with Judge Zagel's consent. They will return to court on Thursday.

Judge Zagel said the jury has been "exceptionally disciplined" in its deliberations as no raised voices have been overheard.

Blagojevich had no comment as he left the building after the note was read. Upon his arrival, he told media and court observers, "Missed you guys."

Blagojevich's father/son team of Sam Adam Jr. and Sam Adam Sr. were at the Dirksen Federal Building for the hearing. Prosecutors also gathered at the courthouse.

Jurors have been deliberating for 11 days. Six men and six women make up the jury in the Blagojevich corruption trial. Their last note was sent on July 30, when they asked for transcripts to witness testimony. Judge Zagel said they needed to be more specific. Since then, the judge has not heard from the jury, which has made it hard to glean how deliberations are proceeding.

Blagojevich faces 24 counts ranging from racketeering to wire fraud. His brother, Robert Blagojevich, faces 4 counts. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, including allegations that they schemed to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama.

During the trial, prosecutors played hours of secretly recorded conversations between Blagojevich and others. Those tapes are part of the evidence jurors had to go through.

Blagojevich's defense called no witnesses throughout the trial.


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