Blagojevich jury agrees on only 2 of 24 counts

August 16, 2010 9:21:20 AM PDT
Jurors deliberating the fate of Rod Blagojevich told the judge they have only reached agreement on two of 24 counts against the former governor, and they haven't considered them all.

Judge James Zagel read a note indicating the jurors were unanimous on only two counts--which were not identified-- Thursday during an 11 a.m. meeting. Nor is it known if the unanimous verdicts apply to the former governor or his brother, who faces four counts. Jurors also said they have not deliberated on 11 wire frauds counts.

Blagojevich, who was present for the hearing, faces 24 counts in all. He and wife, Patti, had no noticeable reactions to the note.

Judge Zagel gave the attorneys 10 minutes to think about a reply he wrote that jurors should look at the wire fraud counts that they have not yet considered. Only one word was changed by attorneys, who wanted 'vote' to be changed to 'decide.' The judge agreed and jurors got the note after breaking for lunch. It says, in part, "You should deliberate on the wire fraud counts to the extent to enable you to decide on all the counts."

Expert Richard Kling said that while Judge Zagel's note is not the Dynamite Charge, it's along the same lines.

"The Dynamite Charge is essentially saying you have a right to your opinion. There's no question that you can keep them. However, you have promised you would try to reach a verdict. See if you can come to a conclusion on the verdicts. Then come to the conclusion. If you can't, then you can't. And you'll have to report it as a hung jury," said Richard Kling, Kent College Of Law.

So jurors returned to deliberations and the Blagojeviches, attorneys, media outlets and other observers went back to waiting. Jurors wrapped up Thursday around 4 p.m. and will not be back until Monday morning.

Blagojevich made no comment after the hearing. His attorneys said they could not talk to press but Sam Adam Sr. said, "I learned a long time ago never guess what a jury is doing."

Feeling confident in the case, Sam Adam Jr., who said he has dropped 32 pounds since the trial began, said he might be able to eat again this weekend. "I feel great... but the judge has asked me, us, not to make any remarks and I'm going to abide by that."

Do Thursday's revelations bode well for the defense?

What does it all mean? Depends on whom you ask.

"It bodes weller, if you will, better for the defense. If they had found on 15 or 18 counts. The government is somewhat nervous," said Kling.

" If jurors are angry and they think there is a bad guy, it usually moves quicker," said William Healy, DecisionQuest trial consultant.

It is curious that the jury had not voted on any of the 11 wire fraud charges since they correspond to many of the same acts in the racketeering count against the ex-governor. If the jury ends up deadlocked on the majority of the charges and the judge concludes they won't be able to agree, the government faces a decision.

"I think the presumption is with so many counts, if it ends up a hung jury on so many counts, there will be no doubt the government will retry the case. They'll get ready and retry the case and try and figure out what to do better and make plainer and do simpler," said Dean Polales, defense attorney, former U.S. attorney.

Deadlocked jury?

What jurors are doing- and how long it's going to take-- is anybody's guess.

"It is a high-profile case and serious charges and a six or seven-week trial and we should be happy that the jury is taking a lot of time in coming to whatever decision they're going to come to," said Kling.

And the jury's current state is open for interpretation.

"I am not sure I agree they are deadlocked. The jury said they have not been able to reach a verdict. I think that is a different cry from we are deadlocked. I think the jury is saying we're still looking at it and we could reach a verdict," said Kling.

Kling said it is possible for juries who are struggling to come back with a unanimous verdict.

"Six-6, it would be hard. If it was 11-2 or 10-1, and then it depends on what the jury is going to do," said Kling.

Where jurors stand on the 24 counts:

  • TWO UNKNOWN COUNTS: Jurors are unanimous on two counts. It is not clear which counts they have reached agreement on; what that verdict- guilty or not guilty- is; nor if they are in relation to Rod or Robert Blagojevich.
  • 11 UNKNOWN COUNTS: Jurors are struggling with 11 counts, meaning they are stuck without agreement.
  • 11 WIRE FRAUD COUNTS: Jurors stated they haven't even considered, much less voted on, the 11 counts involving wire fraud.
  • The wire fraud counts hinge on phone calls involving Blagojevich and his inner circle that were played in court. Prosecutors claim the former governor wanted personal gain from decisions he made involving state business. Two other counts--racketeering and racketeering conspiracy-- against Blagojevich are intertwined with those counts of wire fraud.

    The unknown counts against Blagojevich include bribery, bribery conspiracy, attempted extortion, extortion conspiracy and false statements.

    Thursday's note a reply to judge for clarification

    Thursday's hearing was a follow up to a note Judge Zagel received from jurors on Wednesday, which revealed they were deadlocked on an unknown number of counts . They were asked to clarify, which led to Thursday's response.

    Blagojevich, 53, faces 24 counts ranging from racketeering to wire fraud. Robert Blagojevich, 54, faces four counts. Both have pleaded not guilty.

    The jury- made up of six men and six women- heard several weeks of trial that included secretly recorded FBI tapes of conversations Blagojevich had with his inner circle while still governor in 2008. On top of the mounds of evidence, the 120-page jury instructions are complex, as is just the first count Blagojevich faces-- racketeering. That one charge involves 20 alleged illegal acts from pressuring people for campaign donations in exchange for carrying out state business to attempting to buy or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. Read Count 1: Racketeering


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