Blagojevich's Trial: The Saga Continues

Next week, the process of holding a new trial for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich gets started. After the first trial, jurors deadlocked on many of the corruption charges Blagojevich faced and convicted him only of lying to the FBI. What will jury selection be like this time around, and how will the case change?

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Federal prosecutors appear eager to retry former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich after the jury deadlocked this week on 23 counts. They'll meet with Mr. Blagojevich and his attorneys in a federal courtroom next week to begin sorting out details. A jury convicted former Governor Blagojevich of one count of lying to the FBI. He says he'll appeal that verdict.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: Here's what will remain the same as the government gears up to retry Rod Blagojevich.

Former Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): Political discussions in America, in my judgment, are still legal, and political horse trading and discussing those sorts of things are still legal.

CORLEY: That's Blagojevich on NBC's "Today Show" yesterday, just a few days after he was convicted of lying to the FBI. He's appearing on TV and radio shows professing his innocence, just as he did before his first trial.

The media blitz might make it more difficult to choose new jurors, but Nancy Marder, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, doesn't expect too much of a problem.

Professor NANCY MARDER (Chicago-Kent College of Law): What we ask of jurors is not that they're blank slates, not that they've been living in a cave and haven't heard anything about this trial, but rather that they can be impartial going in, that they have an open mind, and that they'll decide based on the evidence.

Mr. JAMES MATSUMOTO (Jury Foreman): They don't make it easy for the jury at all.

CORLEY: James Matsumoto was the foreman of the Blagojevich jury. After 14 days of tough deliberations, the jury only agreed on one count, and fell short of reaching a unanimous verdict on the others. Matsumoto says a plethora of charges, and complicated legal concepts behind them, left the jury confused.

Mr. MATSUMOTO: Your eyes just roll up into your head. You just say, oh my God, how are we going to do this? Well, what we did is, we took a little section at a time, and it took forever. And when I hear, what are they doing there for two and a half weeks? What we're doing is schooling ourselves in law.

CORLEY: The problem, says Matsumoto, was that everyone was looking at the evidence in different ways - particularly one juror, who was the sole holdout on many of the major counts.

Mr. MATSUMOTO: And later on she said, you see red - not to me, but to the panel - she said, and I see green, and I cannot see red with the evidence that we're presented. She taught me what it really meant, courage of conviction.

CORLEY: The jury foreman has some additional advice, not for the jury but for the prosecutors: Take more time to plainly explain the case.

Mr. MATSUMOTO: I firmly believe that it is too complicated. If at all possible, tell the jury before they go into deliberation what the charges are, and what the crime is, so they can focus on what they're supposed to be listening to.

CORLEY: Leonard Cavise is a DePaul University law professor. He expects the government will streamline its indictment and include in it names of witnesses who didn't testify at the first trial, like convicted Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko.

Professor LEONARD CAVISE (DePaul University): Apparently, the holdout juror said, I wanted to see a result; I wanted to see a deal; I wanted to see more than just talk, and more than just smoke. And you know, the prosecution has to take that very seriously. That's why I suggested, you know, putting on the witnesses who definitely know what the result was.

CORLEY: And Cavise says when the next trial does get under way...

Mr. CAVISE: I still don't think Blagojevich takes the stand.

CORLEY: Defense attorney Richard Kling, a Chicago-Kent law professor, says there was a lot of speculation during the first trial that the government held back, waiting to use certain witnesses and additional undercover tapes to rebut any possible Blagojevich testimony.

Professor RICHARD KLING (Chicago-Kent College of Law): There may or may not be additional tapes. There may or may not be additional witnesses. But the tapes aren't going to go away, and I think the tapes are the most devastating to Mr. Blagojevich.

CORLEY: There is also a co-defendant, and the government says it will retry Blagojevich's brother, Robert, as well. The jury did not reach a verdict on the four charges he still faces, though many jurors said they believed he was not guilty.

What remains up in the air is who will represent Rob Blagojevich. His attorneys have not said whether they'll take on the second trial. They may be assigned to stay on the case to shorten any trial preparation, or Blagojevich may get a court-appointed attorney. Regardless, Blagojevich says there's little money left in his campaign fund, so it may be taxpayers footing the bill - although the former governor says he's willing to do another reality TV show for cash, if the opportunity arises.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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