Rod Blagojevich: As he contemplates jury's message, the bluster is gone
Before his second trial, Rod Blagojevich cast himself alternately as an amiable populist or a political warrior. But now convicted on 17 counts, the former governor is somber and pensive.
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Ms. Wilson also said the jury, consisting of 11 women and one man, could not help but consider how their decision would affect Blagojevich’s two children. The conversation, however, was inevitably followed by a sense that their responsibility was limited to the charges, and that Blagojevich was ultimately responsible for how his actions affected his family.Skip to next paragraph
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“We live in a world of right and wrong. When you make good decisions, good things happen to you. And when you make bad decisions, not-so-good things happen to you,” she said.
Blagojevich’s testimony persuaded the jury to save him from three counts related to an alleged scheme to shake down a construction company for bribes. For those, the jury deadlocked on two and found him not guilty of a third.
However, the jury was certain of his guilt regarding the 13 charges related to the sale of President Obama’s former US Senate seat. Wilson said those charges were “the easiest” on which to reach guilty verdicts.
“It wasn’t just one attempt. It was attempt after attempt after attempt that was made,” she said.
Unlike the first trial where the jury was described as contentious and often argumentative, deliberating for three weeks until deadlocking on all but one count, the jurors in the second trial were noteworthy for their calm and unanimity. Experts agree that much of the credit should go to federal prosecutors, who simplified their case by dropping counts and creating a strategy that emphasized that Blagojevich’s words constituted wrongdoing, even if they didn’t result in successful personal gain.
For instance, in her three-hour closing argument, US assistant attorney Carrie Hamilton used a PowerPoint presentation to succinctly summarize each count to show how Blagojevich operated with the sole purpose of bettering himself. “The defendant intended to defraud. It was not a mistake or accident,” Ms. Hamilton said.
The strategy was key to earning the convictions, which, taken collectively, are “a pretty brutal statement from the jury,” says Shari Seidman Diamond, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago.
“The verdict is not confined to one thing nor is it a kitchen sink kind of verdict where everything is thrown at [Blagojevich],” Ms. Diamond says. “They picked and chose."