Judge: Hearing reasonable in Cellini mistrial motion

November 23, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Cellini is not automatically entitled to a new trial just because one of the jurors who found him guilty failed to disclose she had two felony convictions.

That is the determination of Zagel, who was the trial judge.

Cellini was found guilty on Nov. 1 of conspiring to extort a $1.5 million donation to then Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund.

After the verdict, Cellini's attorneys learned that a juror, still unnamed, pleaded guilty 10 years ago to possession of crack cocaine and three years ago to aggravated dui.

Calling the juror dishonest, Cellini's lawyers filed a motion for a new trial, contending she was ineligible to sit on a federal jury because she is a convicted felon.

In today's ruling, Zagel disputed that, writing that the juror would have to have "actual bias" shown by cellini's attorneys. At the Dec. 1 hearing, it will be "the defendant's burden to cast sufficient doubt on the juror's impartiality."

Zagel further stated, "A juror offers a bias-free explanation which the courts find credible, such as confusion or embarrassment about admitting to felony convictions before a large audience in open court, then bias cannot be presumed."

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