Blagojevich jury talks about experience

November 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Some juries end their work angry and dispirited. That was not the case with the jury in the second Blagojevich trial. By all accounts, the jury of 11 women, one man and six alternates remained focused on the evidence and respectful of each other during a pressure-cooker case that occupied 10 weeks of their lives. When they started as 18 strangers, a marshal told them, "you're the Blagojevich jury. Say hi to your new family."

"As much as you think you can prepare yourself, you really can't," said Amy Laures, alternate juror.

The jurors were ordinary folks who couldn't believe they'd been picked for such an extraordinary case.

"First time I'm in a courtroom, and I'm not used to all these people. I'm used to watching Perry Mason," said juror John McParland.

Six of the jurors and two alternates got together Sunday to renew friendship and publicly share recollections not just about the pressure of sitting in judgment of a former governor but other pressures - like getting to court on time when a cop has stopped you.

"I'm like officer, I have to go. I'm on the Blagojevich jury, and he's like it's seven in the morning and he looks at me as say excuse me, and I said, I'm on the Blagojevich jury, and he said, have a nice day," said Debbie Fawkes, juror.

Since for most of nine weeks they couldn't talk about the one thing that brought them together, they got to know each other. And they figured, what are the odds of being picked for this jury? Maybe we should play Lotto.

"We'd all pitched in our dollars, we pooled our money and every week someone would buy the tickets and we'd come in and we're like, did we win, are we still jurors? We won $5," said Juror Mary DeLeon.

Despite the laughs in the jury room, this was a group that understood the enormity and seriousness of its task.

"I think because of the integrity of the people on the jury, it made everybody's job much easier," said Connie Wilson, jury foreperson.

Still, it was not easy. Particularly the day they delivered their verdict.

"I felt like people could see my heart pounding," said Jessica Hubinek, juror.

The jurors say they'd found Rod Blagojevich's own testimony to be manipulative, that the real Blagojevich was the one on the tapes, and that he was guilty. But concluding that was not without pain.

"He has a daughter the same age as my daughter. I can't imagine what they're going through. It's really sad," said Hubinek.

That's a sentiment held by the other jurors and alternates at Sunday's gathering at the Carol Stream library - a correct, but sad verdict. Some of the jurors say they will attend the sentencing next month because doing so for them will make the process full circle. Other jurors say it'll be too painful, and they'd prefer to watch from afar. That may be among the few things they don't agree upon.

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