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Judge Zagel Improperly Pre-Screening Jurors: Blago Defense

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Judge Zagel Improperly Pre-Screening Jurors: Blago Defense
Judge Zagel Improperly Pre-Screening Jurors: Blago Defense

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Lawyers for former governor Rod Blagojevich have filed a motion in federal court challenging Judge James Zagel for screening potential jurors without their input.

At a hearing last week Zagel said he had personally begun the process of pre-selecting potential jurors who could serve during a trial that is expected to last many months.  The Blagojevich lawyers contend that is improper, and that the entire process should start again from scratch.

Defense attorney Sam Adam says he believes preliminary questionnaires were sent to some 400 candidates. 

"It is the defendant's belief that approximately 75-percent (of potential jurors) were summarily excused by the court for hardship," Adam writes. He declares that Zagel acted "improperly" by excusing jurors without allowing the parties to question them separately.

Zagel indicated he had found some 90 potential jurors for whom the length of the trial would not be a problem.

"Jury service is a duty, as well as a privilege of citizenship," Adam declares.  "Jury service is a duty that should only be excused in the most extreme, unavoidable circumstances."

The trial is expected to last at least three to four months, and some legal observers believe it could stretch even longer.  Formal jury selection is scheduled to begin next Thursday.
 

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