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Jurors restored faith in the system

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011

* This is a fascinating insight into how the Blagojevich jury operated

Instead of private ballot, they did a “fist to five” vote, a consensus-building technique Karin Wilson [a teacher from Palatine] suggested. If a juror raised a hand with all five fingers, that meant they were leaning strongly toward guilty. A fist was innocent. If the juror was somewhere in between, the number of fingers held up gave an indication of which way she or he was leaning.

Connie Wilson said they had about four or five separate votes on each count.

* They seemed to be intelligent, calm, rational and respectful

“Everybody was very respectful,” Hubinek said. “When I think of how a jury should go, this is what I thought about.”

* And open-minded

Maribel DeLeon, a juror who often smiled at the ex-governor during his testimony, said she wanted to side with Blagojevich.

The evidence, though, did not side with him.

“I’d come in thinking, ‘OK, he’s not guilty,’ and then all of a sudden I’m like, Gosh darn you, Rod! You did it again!” said DeLeon, the mother of three. “He proved himself guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. He kept saying ‘Do it.’ ‘Push it.’ ‘Get it done.’ That’s where he crossed the line.” [..]

Another described the former politician as coming across as “personable” during parts of seven days on the stand.

“It made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors,” said Juror 103, a bartender and self-described “weekend warrior” who pursues photography on the side.

* And just

The jury was “12 strangers” who evolved into “an amazing group of people” that should make taxpayers “proud,” the forewoman said. “They were so wanting to keep ‘innocent until proven guilty.’”

Jurors nodded in agreement as one female juror said the easiest decision was finding Blagojevich guilty of trying to peddle President Obama’s former Senate seat for his personal gain. Blagojevich’s defense lawyers contended Blagojevich’s tape-recorded comments about trading the Senate appointment for a high-powered job were just talk from a politician who liked to talk.

“Our verdict shows we did not believe it,” one juror said. She noted that Blagojevich went beyond talk because “there were several times he said, ‘Do it.’”

“There were just so many times he brought it up to people,” noted another juror.

* Watch jurors explain their verdict by clicking here. A transcript is here.

* This is a far cry from the image of juries conjured up by John Kass earlier this week

All it takes to sway a jury is one relentless personality, first going one way, then going the other, wearing down the more agreeable and placid folks.

How do I know this?

Because I was that personality (aka “that jerk”) when I performed a rather unscientific experiment in jury dynamics many years ago. […]

And I knew that [the jury forewoman] would soon come to hate me.

On the first day of deliberations, I argued against the boy and his grasping lawyers, saying we should all know this for what it was — an insurance scam. […]

But the next day, our brief meeting wasn’t brief. I dragged it out, saying I had a change of heart, because I wondered what would happen if that little boy wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and fly jets? His eye injury might prevent it. […]

In one sense I was merely airing both sides of the argument, which is what jurors are supposed to do. But I was also testing how easily a jury can be manipulated. What I did was wrong, but I was always for the kid anyway, and justice was served.

Thankfully, the Blagojevich jury wasn’t interested in conducting silly experiments.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 6:44 am:

    If Blago faces a maximum of up to 300 years behind bars, why are we hearing people assuming 8-10 years as a sentence, with most leaning towards 8 years? He’s shown no remorse, both he and his lawyers attempted to manipulate the courts and taint the jury pool on many occasions, and his actions over 8 years as governor contributed greatly to the misery that the citizens of Illinois are facing today.

    You can hear in the tapes when he knew his conversations might be being taped that he struggled, and hesitated at many points trying to get his directions to his underlings without actually saying “here’s what I want you to do”. To say he believes he did nothing wrong is just not believable.

    While I do believe defense lawyers need to press the court and do everything they can to help their client, they went way too far. Essentially the Adams succeeded in putting on a defense during the prosecution’s presentation of evidence in the first trial, and Judge Zagel was not going to allow that to occur in the second trial. His lawyers claimed bias on the part of the judge at that point, and I’m sure that will serve as a part of the basis for his inevitable appeal. The defense was essentially pushed to put him on the stand to see if his ability to gladhand people would sway at least one member of the jury to ignore the evidence and cause them to hang on the counts. Thankfully, that didn’t happen this time, even though they were successful in stacking the jury with what the defense thought would be sympathetic females.

    So, even though it’s too late for me to make a long story short, I think a minimum sentence of 20-25 years would send a clear message to politicians that you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist if you abuse the people’s trust and use your office for personal gain.

  2. - Obamarama - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:24 am:


    There are a few things to keep in mind:

    1) His sentences would run concurrently, and not consecutively.
    2) Blagojevich had no criminal record before these charges. Even though he carried himself like a clown, that doesn’t factor into sentencing guidelines.
    3) I believe federal inmates must serve 85% of their sentences. That is where people are likely getting the 8-10 from (sentenced to 10, will serve 8 and a half).

    He would have been better off making a plea deal.

  3. - DRB - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:42 am:

    Ten years is not near enough in this case. Blago damaged every citizen of Illinois. We citizens will be feeling the Blago effects for years. I’m thinking 25 would be better.

  4. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:44 am:

    I don’t know much about federal sentencing guidelines, but it seems to me having 18 sentences (these 17 plus his original conviction on 1 count) run consecutively is sending a bad message for would-be wrongdoers in public service. That message is, “if you’re gonna do it, do it as much and as often as you can” because the penalty for being caught (if caught) will be the same as for an isolated incident of wrongdoing.

  5. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:45 am:

    Edit: “concurrently” for “consecutively”.

  6. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:47 am:

    And we the people were apparently blessed by a wonderful, thoughtful and deliberate jury this time.

  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 7:48 am:

    Let’s move all the sentencing speculation/talk/etc. to this post. Thanks.

  8. - Ghost of John Brown - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 8:24 am:

    I know I was wrong. I was convinced that there would be one or two knuckleheads that would buy the Gov’s BS. I was wrong - thankfully wrong. They did restore part of my faith in juries.

  9. - Kerfuffle - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 8:38 am:

    According to everything we’ve heard this was absolutely a model jury and they are to be commended for the difficult work they performed. as to John Kass, all I can say is he showed what a true ass he can be.

  10. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 9:31 am:

    –Thankfully, the Blagojevich jury wasn’t interested in conducting silly experiments. –

    John Kass’ career as a columnist is a silly experiment. The guy’s barely literate and has nothing to say.

    The only good columns he ever had were those dictated by one of the Eddies. That’s not writing, that’s typing.

  11. - soccermom - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 9:32 am:

    Didn’t Kass have to take an oath as a juror? Did he break that oath by playing games? And has the statute of limitations run out?

  12. - Jackass Hunter - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    While I applaud the jury for doing their duty yesterday, had Blago been a Republican, he would already be in jail as of today without the need for a second trial. This is true despite the fact most of the convicted politicians in Illinois history have been from the Democratic party. I find it humerous that after Blago was elected originally, so many of his supporters rallied around him as some sort of knight in shining armor after the problems of George Ryan. At that time, I tried to remind these confused people that Ryan is the ONLY Republican Governor from Illinois to be convicted for breaking the law. Yet, the Blago supporters I knew at that time loved to blame the Republican party for all of the corruption in State government up to that point. I distinctly remember telling all of them that before this guy is done in office, he will break more laws than Ryan ever thought of doing. I realize Ryan broke the law and he rightly paid a price for his misdeeds, but seriously, do you really need to be a Republican to know the difference?

  13. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 10:28 am:

    Despite Kass’ shenanigans, the jury system worked anyways.

    As for faith in the jury system, when was it ever shaken?

    The serious problems we’ve had with our criminal justice system have been almost exclusively malfeasance by prosecutors or the judge we occasionally disagree with over sentencing.

    Not jurors.

    Even in the OJ case, I have a hard time blaming the jury. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was a great line, and most legal analysts admit the prosecutors botched that trial.

    Heck, even in tort cases, while folks sometimes argue about the size of the verdict (without having heard the testimony), they very rarely disagree with a jury’s finding of liability.

    The Exxon Valdez case — did anyone think that Exxon really wasn’t responsible?

  14. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 10:44 am:

    I guess anybody who needed a reason to hate Kass - I never cared one way or the other - has one now.

  15. - Way Way Down Here - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 11:15 am:

    Re: Kass

    As my father used to say, “I don’t think I would have told that one son.”

  16. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 1:59 pm:

    Did anyone read Kass’s blue vien story today? What in the world was he talking about? Really, one of the biggest stories of the year and he’s wring about Rod’s viens.

  17. - rdb66 - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 4:01 pm:

    Rich, a well-done, well-deserved post. Hope it felt as good to write as it did to read.

  18. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jun 28, 11 @ 4:21 pm:

    Whatever lingering positive feelings I may have had for Kass are now gone. Playing a game with a litigant’s life as well as the busy lives of the jurors as part of some “experiment” blows me away. What a putz.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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