Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Did Judge Zagel Want Blagojevich Convicted?

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The former jury foreman from the first trial said during a class room talk that some jurors thought Zagel acted unfairly toward the defense.

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On numerous occasions, former Governor Rod Blagojevich praised the wisdom of Judge James Zagel. But did Zagel have a bias against Blagojevich?

The jury foreman from the first trial, James Matsumoto thinks that might be the case.

“During deliberation it came out that they, a few of the jurors, did not like the way that the judge treated the defense attorneys,” Matsumoto said Tuesday night in a session at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Zagel’s rulings were a source of frustration for the defense attorneys throughout the second trial as well. During Blagojevich’s testimony Zagel had little patience for the ramblings of the former governor, sustaining many of the prosecution’s objections.

One of the objections sustained by Zagel was against a request to play tapes of Rahm Emanuel asking Blagojevich for a favor. The defense attorneys had claimed on many occasions that if they had been able to play all the tapes they wanted they would have enough evidence to acquit the former governor.

A possible appeal for Blagojevich could include a challenge to Zagel's behavior in regards to objections of the prosecution and the impact they had on granting a fair trial.

Matsumoto did not, however believe that Zagel wanted to see Blagojevich convicted. He said that if the defense attorneys were doing something wrong and the judge sustained the objection, it was not because of any personal bias. 

Matsumoto also clarified that the opinions of the jury on Judge Zagel’s actions had no impact on the decision of the jury which convicted Blagojevich on one count of the 24 he was charged with.

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