US District Judge James Zagel received a note from jurors Wednesday, the 11th day of deliberations, saying they had made “a reasonable attempt” to reach a unanimous decision on all counts but could not make a consensus on some.
Judge Zagel called the jury “exceptionally disciplined” and said he would tell the jury it was “permissible” for them to return verdicts on some counts and not on others.
On late Wednesday afternoon, the judge said he wants to consult with the jurors before deciding what happens next. He added that the note did not make it clear regarding which counts the jury count not reach consensus.
The former governor faces fraud, conspiracy, bribery, and racketeering charges that involve alleged attempts to trade official acts for contributions to his campaign fund.
Ronald Allen, a criminal law expert at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, says the deadlock can be explained two ways: It indicates the jury “had a lot of counts to go through and they’re doing it systemically and seriously and they were not convinced he was not guilty” and that “a quick acquittal” is likely not going to happen.
Even if the jury can’t reach consensus on some counts, there are enough to ensure Mr. Blagojevich, if found guilty, will face a considerable prison sentence.
The worst case scenario is a 300 year prison term if convicted on all 24 counts; Mr. Allen says it is more likely he will receive 7 to 15 years total.
One possibility is the deadlocked deliberations have to do with Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother who faces four counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, attempted extortion, and bribery.
Albert Alchuler, a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law who specializes in criminal justice, says that because the charges against Rod Blagojevich are more serious than those of his brother, the jury may be stymied about how to proceed.
“A problem with these big long trials is [that] jurors have a lot to get through and a lot to understand so sometimes they get confused,” he says.
Mr. Alchuler called the 11-day deliberation period “fairly typical.”
“I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was less time but it’s within the ballpark,” he says.
The jury last communicated with Mr. Zagel July 30 when they requested transcripts of all the trial’s testimony, of which they were refused. The judge said he would provide testimony of certain witnesses but only if necessary.