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Blagojevich jurors reach agreement on 2 counts
Haven’t addressed 11 on wire fraud yet
Question of the Day
CHICAGO | Jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich said Thursday that they have reached agreement on just two of 24 counts against him, and haven't even begun discussing 11 of the counts. The judge quickly said he would tell them to go back and deliberate more.
The exchange once again left the courtroom in a state of uncertainty, with lawyers and legal experts saying there is no way to know for sure how long the deliberations may go on - but some saying the apparent deadlocks on some counts were a good sign for Mr. Blagojevich and his co-defendant brother, Robert.
The 11 counts the jury has yet to discuss involve wire fraud. Most of them deal with FBI wiretap recordings and the allegation that Mr. Blagojevich tried to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat.
The jurors did not say which two of the 24 counts they had agreed on, nor what their decision was.
Former state appellate Judge David Erickson said the jury's apparent deadlock on 11 counts looks good for the defense. He said if 12 jurors can't come to an agreement, it shows some have doubts that prosecutors made their case.
"To this point, if we were keeping score, I think the defense strategy worked spectacularly," said Mr. Erickson, now a law professor in Chicago.
The defense did not call a single witness, including the former governor himself, and argued that Mr. Blagojevich was a big talker but never committed a crime.
Michael Helfand, a Chicago lawyer not involved in the case, said he expected jurors to tell the judge soon that they are hopelessly deadlocked.
"The defense has every reason to be thrilled," he said. "This jury has been deliberating for such a long time - the chances of someone changing their mind now aren't good."
Others believe the jury may need some time to work through the remaining counts.
"If they haven't addressed the wire-fraud counts, we're going to be here until next week," Richard Kling, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, told WLS-TV.
Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor, said it could be that one or two jurors are "really digging their heels in" on other counts and the jury has just not gotten to the wire-fraud counts.
He said what is particularly baffling is that there have been no notes of substance to the judge throughout deliberations. Until the 11th day, they had sent only two notes.
"Given they've accomplished virtually nothing, you would have thought we'd heard something," he said.
Which counts they've agreed or disagreed on is crucial, especially when it comes to arguably the most serious charge - Count One, racketeering.
Prosecutors front-loaded the indictment, requiring jurors to decide as they considered that racketeering charge whether Mr. Blagojevich committed more than 20 separate illegal actions, from trying to sell the Senate seat to squeezing a construction executive for campaign cash.
Many other charges, including wire fraud, rely on whether jurors have already agreed Mr. Blagojevich committed the long list of actions under racketeering. That makes Count One a kind of legal domino; if jurors convict on it, many other counts should also come in as guilty.
Asked if Thursday's note suggests jurors are bogged down on racketeering, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky agreed.
"Yes, it does seem to," he said.
Mr. Blagojevich did not comment after the hearing. But asked if he felt it was good news for his client, his attorney, Sam Adam Sr., responded, "I don't know. I've learned a long time ago not to guess what juries are thinking."
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