Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Day One: Blagojevich Sits Silently

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at the Federal Court building Thursday, June 3, 2010 in Chicago, for jury selection in his federal corruption trial.

    This is the day reality set in for reality star Rod Blagojevich

    Blagojevich, evocative of his gubernatorial days, appeared for his corruption trial decked out in a navy blue suit and blue tie.  But there was one nod to the ominous course his life is taking: he resisted the urge to mug for the cameras, or give the innocence speech which has become a staple of talk radio and network chat shows over the last 18 months.

    "Today is a good day," Patti Blagojevich declared as a silent Rod stood at her side.  Today is a day that begins a process to correct a terrible injustice that's been done to my husband, our family, and to the people of Illinois."

    "My husband is an honest man," she said, "and I know he is innocent."

    In the 25th floor courtroom, Blagojevich took his place at the defense table, sitting silently as Judge James Zagel reminded prospective jurors of the almost holy cause they were undertaking.

    "We fought a revolution so you could sit here today," Zagel told the first 34 candidates.  "Your presence in this courtroom is a living symbol of the birth of our nation."

    "Jury service," he said, "represents the faith of democracy that we are competent to govern ourselves."

    With that, the candidates were ushered in, one at a time.  Number 101, a white female CPA, said she had an opinion about one of the defendants, and didn't know if she could set that bias aside.  Number 102, an African American woman, said she remembered Patti "was on something about bugs or something." (Patti Blagojevich was a contestant on a jungle based reality show).

    Number 104, a white male, said he had "some knowledge" of the case, but felt he could be fair.

    There was a juror issue.  A furious judge James Zagel eviscerated a 22 year old jury candidate, who he said had consulted a lawyer to better fill out his jury questionairre in a way he woud be rejected for service.  Among other things, the juror said he had a medical condition, which included a "bad temper."

    "Is there anything you wouldn't say?" An incredulous Judge Zagel asked.  "This is a disgraceful performance!"

    Zagel said he was so outraged by the young man's decisions, he wished he could make the document public, but would not, because he already had ruled all of the questionairres would remain confidential.

    And so it continued, hour after tedious hour.  Each candidate was grilled by the judge about likes, dislikes, and hobbies for about ten minutes.  The attorneys asked no questions.  The defendant, uncharacteristically, said nothing.

    "I think the jury selection will be quicker than everyone has anticipated," said defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky.  "We're here, we're willing to start, and God willing, we will prevail."

    Full Coverage: The Trial of Rod Blagojevich