A look at the challenges jurors face in Blago retrial

June 17, 2011 3:26:06 PM PDT
Jury deliberations resume Monday in the corruption retrial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

Once they reach a verdict many will want to hear the jurors talk about how they made their decision.

The jury at the first trial deadlocked on all but one count and some said they felt pressured by reporters to talk.

ABC7's Paul Meincke took a look at the challenges facing jurors once deliberations are over.

Say you are picked for jury duty. You find yourself sitting in judgment of a former governor. You give up a slice of your life to do your civic duty. You are under a microscope. You make a decision with 11 other people who were strangers just weeks earlier. And then, the cameras come, and the calls - seemingly non-stop. You don't have to say anything, but there is a public expectation and a press demand that you do. Take a look back at last summer.

As Rod Blagojevich talked on verdict day last summer in the federal building lobby, jurors in his trial were heading home after 14 long days of deliberations. They had deadlocked on all but one count. They were tired, there was frustration, and they left assuming their names would not be made public until the following day.

But when foreman James Matsumoto walked up to his house, the reporters and cameras were already waiting.

"One of the reporters, I think from CBS, said, 'are you James Matsumoto,' and I said, 'no, I think he lives down the block,' and she said, 'no, you're him,' and I said, 'OK, you got me,'" he said.

Matsumoto answered questions that day. Fellow juror Cynthia Parker talked the following day in part to get reporters to leave which they did.

Chiakulis was the lone vote not to convict on the Senate seat. Her phone, she says, never stopped ringing. There was a helicopter overhead, and TV live trucks outside for days.

"It was probably one of the most difficult experiences of my life," said juror JoAnn Chiakulis.

Jurors are called on to do their civic duty, but they are not required at all to explain their decisions no matter what the case.

"I've always thought that the public has a right to know. It is a public trial. It's a federal trial. And if I chose not to say anything, they'd just go to someone else or they would continue to call and say, 'why don't you say something? Just give us something,'" said Matsumoto.

"I believe they have a right to know?not going in to personal things and disrupting lives and everything. But yes, I believe they have a right to know up to a point," said Cynthia Parker.

But where is that point? The public expects answers. Jurors expect some measure of privacy. Ms. Chiakulis says jurors - if they choose - should be able to explain their positions, but outlining the decisions of others, she says, can open a Pandora's box.

"I think when you start going down the road of well this one voted this way and that one voted that way, I don't think that's anyone's business quite frankly," said Chiakulis.

Names of the jurors in the last Blagojevich trial and this one, as well as the George Ryan trial, were not revealed until the trials concluded. At the end of the Ryan case, jurors were invited to talk to reporters in a controlled courthouse setting after the verdict. Six of them did.

Last summer, a similar arrangement was offered to the Blagojevich jurors. They didn't opt for it. But looking back, Matsumoto, Parker and Chiakulis all say it would've been a wise idea to talk right away.


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