Blagojevich's retrial set to begin

In this April 21, 2009 file photo, ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is seen leaving federal court in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

April 19, 2011 8:46:07 PM PDT
Rod Blagojevich goes back on trial Wednesday. While there are similarities to the former governor's first corruption trial, his retrial is not expected to be a rerun.

There's one less defendant and a couple familiar faces on the defense team will not be in the courtroom. In addition, the government's case has been simplified and streamlined.

The message from the ex-governor is the same: play the tapes. And so are the charges against him - except RICO - the two racketeering counts are out.

"The mistake that the government made was to try and put everything into the RICO, and that was a big mistake because it was very confusing," said Prof. Leonard Cavise, DePaul College of Law.

"We had to look up and find things in these huge books," said Cynthia Parker, who was on the jury that found the former governor guilty on only one count last August.

Jurors from that trial say they eventually figured out the law but were overwhelmed by a 105-page book of instructions.

"It's gonna be half the book now, and with Robert out of the case, it's gonna be even less," said Patrick Collins, former assistant U.S. attorney.

The ex-governor's brother Robert, seen by some of the jurors as a sympathetic character, is no longer a defendant. Charges against him were dropped.

"In dropping the charges against Robert, I think it makes it more difficult for Rod, because it focuses entirely on him now," said jury foreman James Mastumoto.

Though he remains as an advisor, Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Junior's fiery oratory - both in and out of court - is out of the mix in the retrial.

"The theater, we've had that for 18 months from impeachment through the first trial. With all due respect to my father and me, people are tired of that. They want to get to the nuts and bolts of it," said Adam Junior.

The defense didn't put on a case last time. Some think they will need something in the second trial.

"They're going to have to give the jurors a coherent story this time about what happened, why he said and did did the things he did, if not through him personally testifying, then through other witnesses," said Beth Foley, jury trial consultant.

"It's dangerous for the defense to put on a case, but if just sit there and let the government do what they're going to do, I think the government will secure convictions on most of these counts," said Jeff Cramer, former assistant U.S. attorney.

A large pool of potential jurors will fill out questionnaires on Wednesday. Lawyers on both sides will begin their look at those questionnaires shortly thereafter, and the actual selection of jurors will get underway Thursday.