Some Blago jurors support retrial

August 18, 2010 6:38:22 PM PDT
Jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial expressed disappointment in not being able to reach agreement on all the counts against the former governor and his brother.

Jurors came up with only one verdict out of 24 counts.

Many from the panel are telling stories about a single, holdout juror who prevented even more guilty verdicts in the case.

The jury was made up of six men and six women. Eight of the members were white, three were African American and there was one Asian-American juror, who was named the foreman.

Their 14-day deliberation was contentious but civil. Despite serious disagreement on the charges, the panel made a pact before leaving the courthouse that they wouldn't talk about each other's votes, including those of the lone female holdout.

Jury member Cynthia Parker of Gurnee, Ill., spoke to ABC7 about the trial that consumed her life for weeks.

"We thought about it day and night. Most of us tried to put it away, but it was hard. It just took over our lives," said Parker.

The retired state employee refused to say how she came down on specific counts but said she's glad Blagojevich will face trial again.

"Maybe we didn't accomplish what we set out to - I know we didn't - but I feel we tried our hardest and did all we could," said Parker.

"We were given a mandate to look at the evidence and to try these two individuals and to give justice to the state of Illinois, and we did not do that," said James Matsumoto, Blagojevich jury foreman.

Matsumoto voted guilty on all 24 counts as did jury member Ralph Schindler.

"Several of us offered to stay as long as it took to reach an agreement, and the consensus was that we weren't going to get there," said Schindler.

John Grover said jurors were especially split on the counts against Robert Blagojevich. The vote was 9 to 3 on his fate.

But on most of the counts against the former governor it came down 11 to 1. The lone female holdout stood firm even after fellow jurors made an emotional appeal by requesting their oath be re-read in court.

"It was to read out loud to all the jurors but it was trying to help us with the one juror, I guess you could call her," said Grover.

"We were all strong personalities. That's what made it kind of good and bad," said Parker. "We all got along very well. We bonded, we respected each other, and there was just differences that we couldn't overcome."

Almost every jury member ABC7 spoke with said they are glad the government is going to retry the case. For their efforts, they were paid just $40 a day, plus mileage.

Blago jurors: Vote close on 3 other counts

Jurors say former governor Rod Blagojevich was just one vote shy of being convicted on three counts of bribery and extortion related to the alleged scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat.

The youngest member of the jury is a 21-year-old student, Erik Sarnello, of Itasca, Ill. Both he and James Matsumoto said it was a lone juror that stood in the way of a guilty verdict for both Blagojevich brothers on the three counts of extortion and bribery that were related to the open U.S. Senate seat.

Outside of those votes, there were one to five holdouts on any given charge, they said.

"If they could focus on the Senate seat and go at that hard, I think it would make it that much easier. They do have a case. The tapes are, I think, perfect. It's just that someone didn't feel the same way," Schindler said.

Jurors so far have kept the identity of the main holdout juror a secret.

"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 Sarnello.

Sarnello said that he believed after day three of deliberations that the lone holdout on those counts was not going to change her mind. He spent the last nine weeks of his life listening to the trial, including 14 days of deliberations. How? Why? What happened? How did it happen? Sarnello said they voted on the charges anywhere from six to eight times.

"In the beginning, you know, a little more hostility, a lot of emotion in the beginning. Everyone brought their feelings in the room," Sarnello said. "People shut down because of that. They didn't want to deal with all the emotions, so we stepped back and took the emotions out of it, and go over the evidence and a more logical approach, and went from there. People did change their minds."

Sarnello, who leaves for college shortly, said it was the first jury he's ever served on.

"I learned a lot about people, emotions, their views," he said. "I did get bored occasionally, but, you know, sitting in a courtroom is not quite what I'm used to, but I did my best."

Another juror previously said prosecutors should make the case less complicated for the retrial. Sarnello said he agrees.

"The one thing we all felt was that they didn't follow the timelines. It was scattered. One minute they would talk about two events two years apart, and then someone else would talk about something all over the place," Sarnello said. "We want everything consecutive, and follow a timeline for everything to come together."

Sarnello said Rod Blagojevich's decision not to testify did not affect his decision as a juror. But Sarnello said the defense attorneys' style made some difference.

"You might hear the same tone for eight hours straight, and then the defense steps up and you get the show. It woke it up a little bit," he said.

The jury found Blagojevich guilty on one count of making false statements Tuesday. They were hung on the other 23 counts.


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