Ward Room
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Blago Retrial Begins With Jury Selection

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jury selection began Wednesday in the anticipated second corruption trial of impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

    Potential jurors headed to the Dirksen US Courthouse to fill out questionnaires intended to help pinpoint any strong biases for or against Blagojevich.

    It's a hot button issue, considering jurors in the first trial were hung on 23 of 24 counts. Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI, but he still faces 20 counts, including trying to sell President Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

    Judge James Zagel on Monday warned the former governor that he couldn't use media to gain sympathy from the jury. Zagel stopped short of an outright gag order on Blagojevich but said it would be “useful for the defendant to restrain himself.”

    "He could, if he has not already done so, step over the line," Zagel said. "You can consider my remarks today as a red flag."

    Blagojevich has taken his show on the road in past months -- even going on the radio Tuesday despite Zagel's warning -- to maintain the innocence he declared before his federal trial a year ago.

    And just as he'd done in advance of that trial, Blagojevich challenged the government last week and demanded it release all of the evidence they have against him, including secretly recorded telephone conversations.

    Blagojevich said the tapes played last year amounted to "less than two percent" of what was recorded and that "snippets" were taken out of text and distorted.

    Zagel has indicated that some of the tapes in question can be played if Blagojevich testifies. The former governor promised he'd take the stand during the first trial, but he didn't. So far, the former governor’s defense team has declined to say if he will take the stand during his retrial.

    Many observers agree testifying would be a calculated risk, but his brother, Robert, recently implored him to take the stand.

    "I can tell you that Rod can be his best defense," the older Blagojevich said.