August 19, 2010

Blagojevich juror: "It was like, ‘Here’s a manual, go fly the space shuttle."

The work was too complicated!
Jurors said it took them several days just to figure out how to begin to break down their assignment into manageable tasks — not to mention how to understand the legal terminology (what exactly is conspiracy to commit extortion?). These were early hints of the multiple stumbling blocks they would find as they struggled, but failed, over 14 days of deliberations, to reach a verdict on any of the counts but one.

It also became clear early on that some jurors believed that much of Mr. Blagojevich’s crass political talk — captured in hours of secretly recorded phone calls — amounted to dreamy thoughts of what he might gain, not criminal demands.
You know, when someone is blabbing a lot dreamy thoughts, it might add up to a whole bunch of nothing. Wait. I got distracted. We're still talking about Blagojevich, right?
“A lot of it came down to, ‘What was his intent?’ ” [Steve] Wlodek said. “You could infer something if you looked at it one way, or not if you looked another.”
That's reasonable doubt. Didn't you at least get the memo that when there's reasonable doubt, you're supposed to find the defendant not guilty?
After initial frustration and confusion upon arriving in the deliberation room with little sense of what to do next, the jurors laid out a plan.

On large sheets of paper, they wrote down crimes Mr. Blagojevich was accused of committing, and taped each one on the walls around the room. On the sheets: a claim that he had sought political contributions in exchange for legislation to help a local pediatric hospital; another that he had sought a political fund-raising event in exchange for state financing for a school; another that he had sought payments for a law that would benefit the horse racing industry; and so on.
Good for them.  There must have a been a temptation to look at the whole big tangle and make an intuitive guess that he's a crook, then try to see where the actual crimes are.  Ah, but that's sort of what they did. Read the linked article. The votes kept splitting over all the crimes except the charge Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat. On that one, there was a lone holdout. None of the jurors will reveal who this person was, except to say that she was one of the women.
Mr. Wlodek described her stance as “very noble,” adding: “She did not see it as a violation of any laws. It was politics. It was more of conversations of what-ifs.”
If it were a play, she'd gradually win the rest of them over.

The linked NYT article seems to be written around the theme that if only the prosecutor had simplified the case and concentrated on the charge of selling the Senate seat, Blagojevich would have been convicted on a corruption charge. If that's the case, then, on retrial, the prosecutors know what to do. Won't they win?

Consider what the defense has learned. Even though only one juror held out, she held out for a long time, under great pressure. The other jurors clearly respect her. She was "very noble." On retrial, the defense will, I presume, try to make all the jurors feel the doubt she did. Was it not reasonable doubt?

29 comments:

AllenS said...

The one woman holdout, was a colored woman. Can I say that?

MadisonMan said...

I'm glad the jurors worked hard. Jurors are underappreciated.

Thank you jurors!

Hagar said...

Blagojevich is guilty of being a minor, and not too bright, cog in the Daley machine appointed to the State Governor's Office.

I do hope they re-try him. The more publicity the Chicago machine gets, the better. Maybe even the voters in Illinois will do something about it some day.

Pogo said...

"Was it not reasonable doubt?"

There was no doubt that the holdout juror is a retired state employee who worked for the Illinois Department of Public Health and was a director of teen counseling for the Chicago Urban League.

More to the point, FOX Chicago News reported that speculation is centering on juror Jo Ann Chiakulas of Willowbrook, after a second-hand acquaintance said that she has been saying for weeks that she would find Blagojevich not guilty.".


I have reasonable doubt that, in Illinois, Blago would be found guilty of having been Governor.

The Drill SGT said...

The article tries to downplay the lobsided votes by saying it was 11-1 on the charges related to the Senate seat and split on all the others. However the Senate seat incident carried the big ones as was noted later in the article:

charges that included bribery, conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and racketeering

Interesting lessons here:

- in an urban jury room, you can't even get a conviction with the defendent caught on tape.

- the FBI really hates getting lied to and their entire investigatory system is designed to enable 2 agents (and they always are in pairs) to catch you in differences in repeated interviews and then testify in support of each other wearing nice gray suits.

PS: I was a jury foreman once. It's like herding cats. We convicted, but of a lesser included offense. (They were asking for Mayhem)

pm317 said...

On retrial, the defense will, I presume, try to make all the jurors feel the doubt she did. Was it not reasonable doubt?

May be the defense will also cite the Campaigner in Chief in the WH and his "offer" to Joe Sestak and Romanoff. No surprise that the Chicago juror has reasonable doubts about what is politics and what is not. Fitzgerald should have let the transaction complete and show that Blago did benefit from the senate sell out instead of aborting it in midstream. But we all know why he aborted it, don't we?

Pogo said...

"Blagojevich juror: "It was like, ‘Here’s a manual, go fly the space shuttle."


If you are too stupid to be a competent juror, it is your duty to admit it. Of course, you're also likely too stupid to recognize it, or know what to do if you do figure out your utter moronicity.

Hagar said...

Lying to the FBI is what Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby was convicted of. It is sufficient to give Blago a choice of what kind of prison he would like to go to and what arrangements he would like to make for getting his fine paid.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

“You could infer something if you looked at it one way, or not if you looked another.”

That's reasonable doubt.


That depends on how reasonable it is to look at it the other way.

traditionalguy said...

The second Jury is always harder to win over. IMO, the defendant's hardest burden has already been met...that is how to overcome the society's implied righteousness. It is that presumption of guilt, always used by the Feds and the State DAs, who preen into court surrounded by the regalia of being For Law Enforcement. Since the first impression wins 80% of the jurors forever, that advantage is mighty. It is missing on re-trial where there is a sincere determination to weigh evidence instead of "seeing as not disproven" whatever the juror's first impression may have been.

Pogo said...

If you cannot find someone guilty for this shit:

"ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”

...the Senate seat 'is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing.'

Deputy Governor A told ROD BLAGOJEVICH that Tribune Owner will say that he does not have anything to do with the editorials, “but I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune.”

During the call, Rod Blagojevich's wife can be heard in the background telling Rod Blagojevich to tell Deputy Governor A 'to hold up that fucking Cubs shit ... fuck them'
"


...then we can conclude that, like the turnstiles used for crime nowadays, our current US 'law' is just a full-employment project for the attorney-industrial complex, one endless reach-around, paid for by taxes, with show trials for display purposes and (here) comic effect.

Big Mike said...

Was it not reasonable doubt?

For a Chicago politician??? JAC was wrong. You are nuts.

Fear the squirrel.

c3 said...

The greatest injustice is us having to put with more Blago for another year?, two? more?

And the sad part for him is until he's fully convicted and done with it he can't get his own show on CNN.

virgil xenophon said...

Buffoonish idiot and grasping pol Blago may be (how did that guy EVER get elected Governor?--And is his wife a piece of work or what?--What his election says about the mental capacities of the citizens of the state I was born and raised in I'm afraid to ask) but for my money Fitzgerald is an odious starch-collared prig--the Inspector Javert of his time, determined to criminalize the political process. The man has lost his way..

edutcher said...

Two points:

The Wall Street Journal is calling for Fitzgerald's resignation on the grounds he was more interested in another scalp on his belt than nailing the guy. Since the Feds intend to go again, presumably they're going to get somebody who's less of a grandstander to run it.

As Pogo alludes, jurors are not picked for intelligence. I worked with a guy whose mother was a practicing psychologist. Called for jury duty several times, she never got beyond occupation before being challenged.

former law student said...

that speculation is centering on juror Jo Ann Chiakulas of Willowbrook

Chiakulis, huh? Makes sense, I suppose. Can we really trust any Greek? Remember we're supposed to beware of them bearing gifts.

former law student said...

The Wall Street Journal is calling for Fitzgerald's resignation on the grounds he was more interested in another scalp on his belt than nailing the guy.

Maybe the successive metaphors are what's confusing me, but how can one get a scalp on one's belt without first nailing the guy?

If you are too stupid to be a competent juror, it is your duty to admit it.

The problem is democracy: Jurors are selected from the pool of those eligible to vote.

As I pointed out in a previous thread, inchoate crimes are hard to prove. The charge that stuck was a completed crime with a clear-cut issue: whether Blago lied or not.

The government couldn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The tools jurors have to work with are common sense and a sense of fairness.

tim maguire said...

If that juror was unwilling to to convict for a crime because it's politics as usual, then no, how could it possibly be reasonable doubt?

Since when did the "everybody does it" defense become an actual legal consideration?

raf said...

I am more willing to credit the notion I think I heard somewhere that Fitzpatrick pulled the trigger on Blago too early (to get hard evidence) because it looked like it would lead to incriminating the White House. To survive in the Chicago milieu, one must have open communication lines with the Daley machine.

Richard Dolan said...

Blago undoubtedly benefitted from the low opinion people have about politicians and their propensity to say whatever is useful, truth be damned. It's just a given that pols are keenly focused on their own desire for personal advancement, and take it into account in voting for or against legislation, making appointments, seeking campaign contributions, and in everything else they do. If the jury thought the key issue was Blago's intent, it sounds like they were trying to decide whether Blago had that kind of ordinary political intent or something different that they could pigeon-hole as criminal.

I'm surprised they even convicted him on the false statement count, not because what he said wasn't false ("I don't keep track of contributions") but because it was so obviously false that the FBI agents must have known that it was just political BS. That is not a legal defense to a false statement charge (FBI agents frequently know that they are being lied to, and are good at keeping a straight face as the perp digs the hole deeper). But the same view of politicians could easily have led the jury to conclude that Blago's intent in telling that howler to the agents was a wink-and-nod joke that he knew the agents could not possibly take seriously.

Retrials usually favor the prosecution, mostly because (as in this case) it's really only the prosecution that puts on a case and so only the prosecution that needs to tailor its presentation to avoid the pitfalls from the first go-around. They would do well to simplify the case, get rid of any marginal charges and streamline the presentation. But that's not often what prosecutors do today. It's not likely that Fitzgerald will take the jury's not-so-subtle hint.

former law student said...

I see he Tribune has key documents for the trial on their website. Count One on the "Second Superseding Indictment" sprawls over some 40 pages.

My Legal Research and Writing instructor would have given it a C-.

Comrade X said...

So a former government employee and enthusiastic member of The Government Party refused to convict another member of The Government Party. Duly noted.

lemondog said...

Blame feds -- not jurors -- for deadlock

No, this failure to convict rests squarely on the shoulders of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Although the feds made the selling of Obama's Senate seat the core of this political scandal, they did not put on the big dogs who could have connected the dots for the jury.

The jury didn't hear Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. testify under oath that Blagojevich tried to sell him President Obama's Senate seat.

Nor did they hear from Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's own mouth about conversations he had regarding the Senate seat.


What's with not putting these schmucks on the stand??!!

Cedarford said...

AllenS - black or not, the female holdout was making a very good stand on the capricious nature of law enforcement.
"Everybody does it!" Is a powerful excuse. The old refrain "Well, the law is the law!" doen't resonate well when who is targeted and who they seek to punish comes more from political motivations, hungry prosecutors wanting a career boosting case, skin color, or some loser cop just hates BMW drivers and looks to go after them.

Blago is just a Daley machine apparachnik. He rose by doing what everyone in the system was taught to do.
Had he not been spotlighted on wheeling and dealing on the Annointed One's very Senate seat and had been hashing out which Daley crony was to be given state road salting contracts - no problemo.
Kudos to the juror, though I would also add that the American system is stupid just for presuming the Great Wisdom of the Jury...just as it is stupid to believe that 12 bond-traders conferring over the risk level of nested derivatives truly understand what they are deliberating about and will ALWAYS reach a wise decision.
Some of the cases, as Euros under more professional Napoleonic Law and investigating magistrates like to snicker - come down to a jury of Arkansas rubes "deciding" on a heart drug lawsuit. On vagus nerve irritation in contraindicated black males suffering hypertension - based on which female lawyer for plantiffs or defendent has nicer tits.

holdfast said...

I have no doubt that the Prosecution failed miserably by allowing this woman on the Jury.

But I also have no doubt that Patrick Fitzgerald is a complete f*ckup.

Cedarford said...

Drill SGT - "the FBI really hates getting lied to and their entire investigatory system is designed to enable 2 agents (and they always are in pairs) to catch you in differences in repeated interviews and then testify in support of each other wearing nice gray suits."

They are a politicized pack of dirtballs whose reputation exceeds their actual contribution.
I have always disliked the Soviet...or should I say US way that "heroes with badges" cannot only lie, but they are TRAINED to lie to compromise a suspect and thus hopefully lead them into lying back so they can get a conviction on the "lying to hero law enforcement people" even if none of the original charges stick. (See Scooter Libby, Martha Stewart, etc, etc.)

"So what are you in jail for? FBI picked me up for a securities case. Told me that they just wanted to question me, I wasn't suspected of anything..to clear things up. Gave me a story about fraud and some client I didn't know killing himself - which was completely made up. I fibbed about one afternoon trading because I was banging the boss's wife and not there..Turns out they were looking for a W.K. Smith at Salomon Bros, not me, W.E. Smith. FBI computer foulup. But I got 5-10 for lying to them even though they said I wasn't a suspect and didn't need a lawyer unless they arrested me later...Great liars! Better than me!"

traditionalguy said...

Reality Check...A crime has to be a written down, named specific act. A crime cannot be "Conduct Unbecoming" a politician. It sounds like the scalp em first and ask questions later commentors think that all less than moral and maybe unethical behavior is also a crime. Think that through...criminal convictions destroy people. And you are a people too.

John Lynch said...

How many politicians are indicted, only to be let off years later or found guilty only of "lying to investigators?" When I see that as the only charge that sticks, I doubt that any of them were true. Tom DeLay was too smart to fall for that one, I guess.

What caused me to lose all faith in high profile prosecutions was how Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby were handled.

It takes a lot for me to have any faith in a character like Blago, believe me, but I've seen too many of these fishing expeditions that have no real purpose other than ruining a politician. Then it turns out that none of it holds up in court.

What I've learned from watching these, well, show trials is that I should never, ever talk to the police. By the standards used by the government ANYONE can be convicted of lying. The only way to avoid it is to not talk at all.

I am utterly sure that corruption exists, but I'm just as sure that most prosecutions seem to be more about politics than justice.

Freeman Hunt said...

Mr. Wlodek described her stance as “very noble,” adding: “She did not see it as a violation of any laws. It was politics. It was more of conversations of what-ifs.”

Isn't conversation in what-ifs the common parlance of practiced criminals?