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The [Thursday] Papers

"Feeling the eyes of the nation upon them, jurors in the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich grew tense as realization sank in earlier this week that they might convict the former governor on only one of 24 counts he faced," the Tribune reports.

"Of particular concern, several jurors said Wednesday, was the lone holdout on numerous counts that would have convicted Blagojevich of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

"John Grover, 52, a juror from Joliet, said he grew so frustrated after three days of deliberating on the same charge that he yelled at the woman who refused to join the other 11 in agreeing to convict.

"'I gave her a piece of my mind,' Grover said. 'If it wasn't for that one lady, we'd have had him convicted on probably 80 percent of (the indictment).'"

And then we wouldn't have all these brilliant minds telling us everything that was wrong with the government's case.


"Juror Stephen Wlodek said that for the next go-around, the prosecution also might consider calling Jackson and Emanuel to testify what happened from their standpoints," the Sun-Times reports.

"Intermediaries for Jackson allegedly offered Blagojevich $1.5 million if he appointed Jackson senator, while a $2 million school grant Emanuel sought was allegedly delayed by Blagojevich in a bid to pressure Emanuel's Hollywood agent brother to hold a fund-raiser."

But those are the two counts that the jury was incredibly close to convicting on - the Senate seat charge was blocked only by the holdout juror and the jury actually agreed at one point on the school charge.

Seems to me all of this validates the government's approach. They just got a bad jury.


"If they do retry him, he might be in trouble, " Grover told the Sun-Times. "He was lucky."


Some jurors complained that prosecutors didn't provide a timeline of events. But why would they need a timeline? The charges were discrete events, linked only by the alleged method of operation. "Streamlining" the charges, which I assume means dropping some of them, also makes no sense, as one juror notes.

"Take a charge out here and there, to me, would have been counterproductive in that you lose the - what's the word I'm looking for? - the totality of everything together," juror Ralph Schindler told the Sun-Times.


Grover also said of the holdout juror:

"[Her thinking] didn't make much sense to me. And there really wasn't much reasoning either. We would read a paragraph and would understand it one way. And she wouldn't. It got to the point where we were beating a dead horse. At least three full days on the Senate seat. Once we got to an 11-1 vote we spent three days trying to address her concerns."

Juror Erik Sarnello told the Daily Herald that "She wanted concrete evidence. If it were a murder trial, she would have wanted to see the video of the shooting."

Apparently hearing an audiotape of the murderer saying "I'm shooting you now" wouldn't have been enough.


The holdout juror is Jo Ann Chiakulas. Get ready to hear a lot about her - like the fact that she listens to NPR and is active in the Urban League.

From a 1991 edition of Illinois Issues:

"Department of Public Health Director John Lumpkin named Jo Ann Chiakulas of Chicago as the first special assistant for minority affairs, effective September 16. Chiakulas is charged with setting up and supervising the department's new Chicago-based Center for Minority Health Services. Created by H.B. 1216 (PA. 87-633), the center will evaluate the health needs of minorities in Illinois, provide training and technical assistance and improve coordination and communication with minority groups. According to the department, minorities are at greater risk for AIDs, infant mortality, lead poisoning, heart disease, stroke, homicide and high-risk behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use.

"Chiakulas was director of the Chicago Urban League's Young Parents Center for over 10 years and was coordinator for the state's Parents Too Soon program. She has also worked with the Chicago Department of Mental Health and the Belden Manor Shelter Care Home in Chicago."


Depending on what else is dug up, Judge James Zagel might regret not releasing the names of jurors to the media at the outset.


This is also disturbing.

"Schindler, who is 58 years old and retired from the Navy, said the audio recordings of Blagojevich 'were pretty solid evidence to me.' But he said the prosecution's case was weakened because Blagojevich never actually appointed anybody to the open Senate seat that he allegedly was trying to sell.

"'There was no conclusion to any of the alleged activities,' Schindler said. 'You just couldn't say, There, it happened. It never happened.'"

As the prosecution said in its closing, the talk is the conspiracy according to the law, regardless of whether it is consummated. It just takes one step of "furtherance."

I wonder if jurors had this textbook definition at their disposal (many pundits obviously don't):

Generally speaking, a conspiracy is an agreement by two or more persons to commit a criminal act or series of criminal acts, or to accomplish a legal act by unlawful means.

At common law, a conspiracy need not be based on an express agreement. Furthermore, an agreement can exist although not all of the parties to it have knowledge of every detail of the arrangement, as long as each party is aware of its essential nature. [Blumenthal v. United States, 332 U.S. 539, 557-58 (1947)] Moreover, a "conspiracy may exist even if a conspirator does not agree to commit or facilitate each and every part of the substantive offense." [Salinas v. United States, 522 U.S. 52, 63 (1997)] It is enough that each person agrees, at a minimum, to commit or facilitate some of the acts leading to the substantive crime.

Four types of agreement fall within the definition of conspiracy. A person is guilty of conspiracy if he agrees to:

1.) commit an offense;
2.) attempt to commit an offense;
3.) solicit another to commit an offense; or
4.) aid another person in the planning or commission of the offense.

Common and Statutory Law - A common law conspiracy is complete upon formation of the unlawful agreement. No act in furtherance of the conspiracy need be proved. [United States v. Shabani, 513 U.S. 10, 13 (1994)]

Today, many statutes require proof of the commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In jurisdictions requiring an overt act, the act need not constitute an attempt to commit the target offense. Instead, any act (and perhaps an omission), no matter how trivial, is sufficient, if performed in pursuance of the conspiracy. A single overt act by any party to a conspiracy is sufficient basis to prosecute every member of the conspiracy, including those who may have joined in the agreement after the act was committed.

Just to be clear, because this is referring to common and statutory law and you may think I'm stacking the deck because this was a federal trial, well it's the same thing:

It is important to note that an actual crime is not necessary to prosecute a conspiracy case - only the stated intent to break the law. This means that even if the ultimate crime was not committed, the conspirators can be prosecuted under federal law.


Remember, Zagel instructed the jury - as is usual - that you may not like the law as it is written, but you must apply it that way.


A question jurors should also be asked - and I'm not speculating either way.


See also: A Blago Pundit And Pols Review in Beachwood Politics.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Further the conspiracy.


Posted on August 19, 2010

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