Jury selection slow for Blagojevich trial 2

April 27, 2011 7:18:13 PM PDT
Two things are hindering the jury selection process for the corruption retrial of former governor Rod Blagojevich: The publicity from the first trial and the defendant's celebrity status.

Wednesday marked day four in the jury selection process for Blagojevich's retrial on corruption charges. Picking from the pool has been slower than even the judge had hoped. Opening statements are expected to get under way next week at the earliest.

"I would give my eye tooth to make the opening statements," said Sam Adam Jr., Blagojevich's former lawyer.

Adam Jr., Blagojevich's boisterous lead attorney in the first trial, made an appearance at the federal courthouse Wednesday. As the embattled ex-governor made his way through security for another session of jury selection, Adam Jr. held court with reporters, reflecting on the first case in which he and his father, Sam Adam Sr., achieved a hung jury on all but one charge, lying to federal agents.

"I think this time around he has got the right legal team with the right experience that will prove him innocent. I just wanted to come check in and let him know I still stand behind him, my father stands behind him, and we still believe in his innocence," said Adam jr.

Adam Jr. predicted Blagojevich would be totally exonerated on the 20 corruption charges he now faces.

Judge James Zagel continued questioning prospective jurors Wednesday, more than a dozen, including a city truck driver, a Cook County prosecutor, a teacher, a suburban school board president, a doctor, and a man on disability who says he spends his days watching Beverly Hillbillies reruns.

A woman who has tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show was excused Wednesday. The former governor said he is happy for her. In a recorded conversation while governor he used an obscenity when describing the value of his power to appoint a U.S. senator. With that in mind, a reporter asked if the tickets to Winfrey's show were golden.

"I would say f--- golden," Blagojevich said.

Judge Zagel has said he wants 40 people in the pool of possible jurors before whittling the group down to 12 jurors and six alternates. Forty two potential jurors have now been accepted in the pool. The judge will question 15 more on Thursday.

Jury selection can be a fascinating window to humanity and the quirky complications of peoples' personal lives also explains why picking jurors can drag on.

Consider the Beverly Hillbillies aficionado: It came out that he also has an arrest record, stabbing his brother in a family dispute that he told the judge-was self-defense.

The retrial is not expected to last as long as the first one -- which spanned 2 1/2-months -- in part because prosecutors have streamlined their case.