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Can Blago Get A Fair Jury?

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Can Blago Get A Fair Jury?
Jack Higgins
Can Blago Get A Fair Jury?

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Jury selections began on Wednesday for the second trial of impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blago continues to maintain his innocence in the face of 20 counts of corruption charges.

Here’s the conundrum of being Rod Blagojevich: his status as a defendant has made him a celebrity.

That’s the only way he can make a living, since he lost his job as governor. But his career as a celebrity is interfering with his success as a defendant. Many of the jurors questioned for Blagojevich’s second trial expressed the opinion that he’s a fool, a jerk, a crook, and a politician -- but promised they could be fair.

“I think he’s guilty of trying to sell a position,” one woman wrote on her questionnaire.

Another downloaded Blagojevich’s “f------ golden” quote, and used it as his cell-phone ring tone.

After an autobiography, four weeks of Celebrity Apprentice, a WLS radio show, an Esquire profile and a trial that ended in a hung jury, everyone has an opinion about Blagojevich. Few have a good one. In effect, he has poisoned his own jury pool.

After watching the judge refuse to bounce such biased jurors, Blagojevich probably feels as confident of a fair trial as Fielding Mellish, the Woody Allen character in the movie Bananas who is charged with fraud, inciting to riot, conspiracy to overthrow the government, and using the word “thighs” in mixed company.

When a witness calls Mellish a “warm, wonderful human being,” the defendant asks the court reporter to read back the transcript.

“I’ve known Fielding Mellish for years, and he is a rotten, conniving dishonest little rat,” the reporter recites.

Blagojevich’s lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, has also been complaining that the jury doesn’t include enough blacks. The holdout juror in Blagojevich’s first trial was a black woman.

As WBEZ reported: “One woman, an African-American, wrote on her questionnaire that she believed Blagojevich is innocent until proven guilty. The defense hoped to keep her on, but the prosecution sought to have her excused because she runs a business driving people to medical appointments and it would suffer if she had to take two months off for the trial.”

She was excused. There are only five blacks remaining in the 45-person jury pool. But being a defendant is like trying to get a date. You don’t need 12 people to buy your line. You only need one.

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