The defense, meanwhile, targeted would-be jurors who harbored negative feelings about politicians, including juror No. 125, who said Blagojevich seemed guilty.
The judge denied four such challenges on the grounds that the jurors had affirmed their ability to set aside existing notions of Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt.
Each side was able to secure one disputed dismissal. The prosecution objected to a former precinct captain for a Democratic political candidate, while the defense objected to a former certified public accountant whose cousin is a judge.
As we wait in the empty courtroom, Rod is flirting with the courtroom artists. He’s smiling and trying to charm them from the defendant’s table as they stare at him to sketch. In minutes, he’s laughing and they appear charmed.
“That’s why he won the governorship,” Sam Adam Sr. says, laughing.
“Yesterday was a good beginning,” said Rod Blagojevich as he entered the courthouse for day two of his federal corruption trial. The former governor faces 24 counts including racketeering, mail fraud and attempted extortion for trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
He called the legal ordeal he and his wife have endured “a Kafkaesque story” and insisted, “if we get a fair trial, I believe I will be vindicated.”
The ex-governor also took time to praise Federal Court Judge James Zagel saying he was “profoundly impressed with his deliberative approach.”
Inside the courtroom, the second day of jury selection saw 9 of the original 29 prospective jurors bounced after one side or the other challenged them for cause. One of the bounced jury candidates was a woman who expressed some religious convictions that precluded her from judging others. Judge Zagel announced he would delay ruling on another of the potential jurors saying he was a “tough call” because the juror provided as little information as possible during questioning.
Among the 8 prospective jurors questioned before the lunch break today was a Japanese-American man who was born during World War II in a U.S. internment center.
Camp Manzanar was one of ten internment camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were held during World War II.
Another candidate for the jury was a middle-aged man who works for the Department of Homeland Security at O’Hare Airport.
Breslin, who authored the novel, “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” which turned into a movie starring Robert De Niro, said he has already violated one of the cardinal tenets of criminal justice and political reporting – meeting the family of the subject you are writing about.
“I wanted to jump in front of a bus,” Breslin said. “I am breaking the law here.”
“But I was walking around with them and she’s a delightful woman,” he said. “But nothing has agitated her. She’s not that steel-wire political woman you think of. She is a lovely housewife with two kids.”
Mrs. Blagojevich is quite impressive. I spent some time with her and came away with quite a bit of respect for her. But she’s also her father’s daughter, raised on politics. She has a “steel wire” in her and she’s definitely not just a housewife and mother, although she does appear to be a good mom.
* Blago circus starts: On what arguably should have been the worst day of their lives — the start of his public corruption trial — Rod and Patti Blagojevich kept on smiling.
* Jurors by the numbers in Blagojevich trial: Most said they rarely read a newspaper or watched the TV news on TV. Some indicated they wouldn’t have known who the governor was if he and his wife hadn’t appeared on reality TV shows. That made the governor and his wife, Patti, laugh.
Check out the story on Zagel putting the wood to the smarty pants 22-year-old wannabe investment banker trying to get out of jury duty.
It’s good to be the judge. In today’s economy, who wouldn’t want to tee off on a 22-year-old investment banker?
If Rod had a conscience, he would have a very bad stomachache right now. This Zagel does not suffer fools.
It’s like the story of the Confederate soldier brought before Gen. Lee on charges. Lee said, “Don’t be afraid, son, you’ll get justice here.” To which the soldier replied, “General, that’s what scares me.”
I’m as disgusted as the next person about Blagojevich, but this is still the United States and he’s still entitled to a fair trial. I don’t see how he gets that if a juror who’s admitting that he/she think’s Blago is guilty is hearing the case.
The last thing we need is any reason for the Blago team to have solid grounds for an appeal when this is over.
Someone smarter than me needs to explain how a juror who admits to pre-judging the defendant can be allowed to sit on the case.
Segatari, it appears this is just a preliminary round of questioning. If this was a normal trial, they would have finished the selection yesterday since the judge went way beyond 12 people without a rejection.
Also, lots of jurors say similar things at this stage about thinking a defendant is guilty (because they got arrested, for example) but are allowed on the jury as long as the judge is convinced they are willing to weigh the evidence and reach a conclusion on that evidence.
One can ‘think’ someone is guilty prior to trial w/o knowing the facts of the trial.
If during the course of the trial they listen carefully to the defense and decide on the case’s merits that the defendant is NOT Guilty, they are free to change their minds.
Saying you ‘think’ someone is guilty is far different than saying “I’ll vote to convict regardless of the defense’s arguements/prosecutions presentation”.
I see no problem seating a juror that doesn’t have an opinion on the case, but is willing to listen to both sides.
- Dan S, a taxpayer and a Cubs Fan - Friday, Jun 4, 10 @ 11:25 am:
I “think” he is guily and if asked during questioning I would tell the truth regarding my thoughts, but if I sat on that Jury I could only base my vote on the evidence presented in the case. I just just hope the Feds have a slam dunk case. The facts and the truth will finally come out.
RB faces the media for his afternoon chat after court lets out. Funeral dirge is heard in the background as RB says, “it was an up day”. In the background, our intrepid blogger is seen holding up a piece of toast.
Much later - note that the defendant did everything he could to poison the jury pool. Others have noted all along this could possibly be a plan to try for a mistrial. Don’t know about that but if he had kept his mouth shut, it might not be so hard to find jurors who don’t think he’s guilty. Anybody who doesn’t have some opinion after all the noise about this case would have to be dumber than a doorknob. The issue is their ability to set aside a preliminary opinion based on what is essentially noise, and reach a verdict based on the facts as they are allowed to be presented in a courtroom.