New wrinkle in upcoming Blagojevich retrial

February 15, 2011 5:14:26 PM PST
Former governor Rod Blagojevich's defense team wants restrictions on identifying jurors.

The presiding judge in Blagojevich's case, James Zagel, has already ordered that jurors will be anonymous when the trial begins in April.

Judge Zagel ordered that their names will not be made public until eight hours after the verdicts are read. Ex-Gov. Blagojevich, though, says he wants more.

An eight-hour head start isn't long enough for jurors who want to avoid becoming "media prey." That's the term used by Blagojevich's lawyers in a motion filed Tuesday.

Former governor Rod Blagojevich wants his jury to be totally anonymous so that news organizations can never locate and question jurors about why they voted as they did.

According to this motion, to protect against "impending media pressure," jurors could "elect to remain anonymous" forever.

The motion cites "jurors in the first trial" who "felt pressure from the press," including one who "could not sleep at night, had headaches, stomach aches," and was "hounded by the press for weeks."

This motion comes from the same ex-governor who appears to enjoy being hounded by the press. Blagojevich is a media creature who appears regularly on every public platform, as does his wife, who was even a regular on a survival reality show.

When he returns to federal court to stand trial again on corruption charges, media pressure on jurors "deprives Blagojevich" of his "constitutional right to a fair trial and an impartial jury." Pressure such as "swarms of reporters in front of my house," as one juror is quoted, adding, "there was a helicopter flying over my daughter's house."

Anonymous juries are becoming more common and frequently used in the trials of Chicago Outfit figures for security and to prevent tampering. But it is usually at the request of prosecutors and juror names are normally released after the trial ends.

The upcoming case against accused Chicago terrorist Tahawwur Rana will feature such a secret jury, as will the federal racketeering trial of street gang leader Augustin Zambrano.

If Judge Zagel denies the Blagoejvich motion for a forever-anonymous jury, the ex-governor's lawyers say they will settle for a 24-hour window, because jurors need to be given a way to "evade aggressive contingents of the press."