Illinois jurors begin fifth day of deliberations in Blagojevich corruption trial

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial began their fifth day of deliberations this morning, having sent no notes to the judge at all yesterday. Notes they sent out last week, however, suggest that the discussions could take much longer.

Mug shot of Rod Blagojevich
Image: US Marshals Service.

The jury has sent two notes to US District Judge James B. Zagel since deliberations began last Wednesday. The first came on Thursday, when the jury requested a transcript of one of the prosecution's closing arguements. Zagel refused, saying that closing arguments are not evidence.

The second note came on Friday, when the foreman wrote "Is it permissible to obtain the transcript of the testimony? It would be helpful." Zagel interpreted the request as saying that the jury wanted transcripts of the testimony of every single witness in the trial. Zagel again declined the request because it was not practical to do so; about 30 witnesses testified in this case, and the transcripts have not yet been prepared. Zagel instead offered to consider requests for transcripts of testimony from "specific identified witnesses", but said that he would warn the jury that such requests could take some time to fulfill.

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky objected to this plan, saying that "the government will have the benefit of presenting its case a whole second time." Zagel said in reply that he would still consider each of the jury's requests individually.

Such a request, however, suggests that the jury intends to conduct a lengthy review of the case. The six male and six female jurors continued their deliberations on Monday without sending any further notes to the judge.

Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election, among other crimes. Robert Blagojevich, Rod's brother and co-defendant in the case, testified that Rod was trying to manipulate the political situation to his advantage, but emphasized that he engaged in nothing illegal. According to some sources, Blagojevich was interested in leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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