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Bloggers, Jilted Voters Would Contact Jurors, Zagel Says

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Bloggers, Jilted Voters Would Contact Jurors, Zagel Says
Jack Higgins
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Judge James Zagel has deferred a decision on a media demand for release of the jurors' names in the Rod Blagojevich case until at least tomorrow. 

  During a near two hour hearing this afternoon, Zagel continued to express concerns that members of the public, especially those from so-called non-traditional media, might attempt to contact jurors during the most sensitive portion of the case.  And he rejected an attorney's suggestion that juror names have traditionally been released in Chicago, even in the highest-profile cases.
 
"I reject categorically the proposition that there have been many trials like this one!" Zagel said.  "This is, I think, the largest one I have ever seen," noting that he was a prosecutor in one of Chicago's most sensational trials, the Richard Speck murder case in 1967.
 
Zagel said interest in the Blagojevich case stretches far beyond the media, and that he has to consider that some might attempt to contact jurors with less than honorable intentions.
 
"This is the trial of someone who was twice elected governor of the state of Illinois," he said, "and has a greater connection to the public."
 
"We are dealing with perhaps millions of people who voted for the defendant -- millions of people who may feel betrayed."
 
When attorney Natalie Spears, arguing for the media, noted that the trial of former governor George Ryan proceeded without interference, Zagel interrupted her argument.
 
"There were long periods of time where the Ryan trial became ho-hum!" he said.  And when Spears noted that during the Ryan proceedings, it was the media which uncovered irregularities in some jurors' backgrounds, Zagel said, "The principal interest you have is one that is primarily the concern of the courts."
 
The judge revealed that every judge in the Federal Building had received a letter from a disgruntled citizen, who claimed Blagojevich had told her to travel to the Thompson Center where he would give her $200,000.  He said the writer appeared to be "challenged in a variety of ways."
 
He noted that another citizen actually called his chambers July 19, asking for information on how to attend the trial in person, and seemed to grow agitated when he learned he would not be able to address the court himself.  Still another caller, Zagel said, believed the FBI was capable of producing tapes which contained "perfect reproductions of other people's voices".

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