37 potential jurors left in Blago trial 2 pool

April 26, 2011 6:23:38 PM PDT
As the judge interviewed potential jurors for the second corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich, the foreman from the former governor's first trial watched.

"I didn't see the governor. I saw faces, just hundreds of faces looking at me," James Matsumoto said Tuesday. Matsumoto knows the jury selection process- and how daunting it can be to the potential juror. Matsumoto served as foreman for the jury selected in Blagojevich's first trial.

Matsumoto said curiosity and a sense of unfinished business brought him to the courtroom Tuesday. His jury was deadlocked on all but one of the charges against the former governor. Blagojevich was convicted on one count of lying to the FBI.

"The reason I want to hear is testimony is also because, does it coincide with my remembrance of this testimony, or will I still feel the same at the end of this trial as I did at the end of our trial?" Matsumoto said.

Judge James Zagel interviewed 23 potential jurors for Blagojevich's retrial Tuesday, including two people who said in their questionnaires that Blagojevich's wife, Patti, uses foul language. Other potential jurors are a computer person who doesn't see himself as a people person and a software engineer who consumers a lot of news and has less than positive feeling about Blagojevich. When asked if he could be fair, the engineer said, "I think it'd be difficult, but I think I could do it."

Also interviewed, a former head of communications for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce who said on his questionnaire that he thinks Blagojevich is guilty and has a fake public persona. He also downloaded the former governor's "f---ing golden" taped remarks to use as a ringtone on his cell phone. Despite that, he told Judge James Zagel he honestly believes he can be fair. As of Tuesday evening, the engineer remained in the pool, along with a prosecutor and a restaurant owner who said, "It would take a strong case on Mr. Blagojevich's part to convince me he's not guilty."

A single mom who used to work at a strip club and a man who is a nurse at Children's Memorial Hospital were released from duty.

The former jury foreman believes whoever ends up on the jury will shed what they've heard and rise to the occasion.

"I didn't know that at the time but there've been enough people that told me this was the case. I saw if for the most part in our jury, that people overcame their biases aside and looked at the evidence," Matsumoto said.

About 75 prospective jurors have been questioned during the three-day jury selection and only 37 remain in the pool. Most have some impressions and know a little bit about the case against the former governor. A majority say they did not follow the case that closely.

Also on Tuesday, Judge Zagel told the government to tone down testimony about the extravagant spending habits of Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, saying it was "over the top" in the first trial. He also recommended Blagojevich take the witness stand if the defense wants to get in additional tapes and explain the former governor's intent.

Blagojevich, who appears more subdued than he was during the first trial, listened to the prospective jurors and took notes.

Judge Zagel said opening statements will likely begin on Monday.