Blagojevich foreman: Jurors had strong convictions

Juror # 135, an Asian male, 66 years old, is a retired videotape librarian. A Japanese-American, he was born in a detention camp and served as a Marine in Vietnam. His wife was a Chicago public school teacher.
August 18, 2010 4:29:29 AM PDT
The man who served as foreman for the jury deliberating the fate of former governor Rod Blagojevich said the process was exhausting but respectful.

The jury found Blagojevich guilty on one count of making false statements on Tuesday. They were hung on the other 23 counts, as well as the four counts against the former governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich.

James Matsumoto, 66, of Chicago, said everyone on the jury was independently minded. He said the process was "frustrating and exhausting," but jurors were "extremely respectful to each other."

Matsumoto said he voted guilty on all counts against Rod and Rob Blagojevich, but could not get the entire jury to agree.

"They asked if I would serve as foreman and I said I would. But I knew immediately it was the wrong decision," said Matsumoto.

The Northwest Side resident said he knew at the end of last week that coming to a verdict on most of the counts was going to be hopeless.

"The people that said not guilty were adamant and I respect their decision because I think it was based on how they looked at the evidence," said Matsumoto.

He looked at the evidence the way prosecutors had hoped every juror would.

"I thought the government proved its case," said Matsumoto.

The foreman said while there were single hold-outs on some of the counts, it was a mixed verdict on several of the counts.

Matsumoto says the jury never stopped deliberating. He says even on Tuesday there were some jurors that wanted to keep going. But, at the end, they all realized it was going to be pointless. As a foreman, he is disappointed he could not sway others.

"It is always frustrating when they don't accept your logic as being logical," said Matsumoto.

He says while he used logical inference to draw a conclusion, some jurors could not get past the lack of a smoking gun. He says in his opinion the government's strongest evidence was the sale of the Senate seat.

Despite a disappointing outcome, Matsumoto has great respect for his jury.

"There wasn't any animosity, there wasn't any yelling or name-calling," said Matsumoto.

During the trial, Matsumoto was known only as juror #135, an Asian male and retired videotape librarian. He was born in a detention camp and served as a Marine in Vietnam.

Another juror told ABC7 Tuesday night that a lone holdout stood in the way of a guilty verdict for both brothers on three counts of extortion and bribery related to the open U.S. Senate seat.

"We'd listen to a phone call and people would say that supports his guilt and she would say that supports his innocence, such a difference the way she saw it," said Erik Sarnello, 21, of Itasca, Ill.

Sarnello said that he believed after day three of deliberations that the lone holdout on those counts was not going to change her mind.

The jury was made up of six men and six women. They deliberated for 14 days after the several week trial.


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