Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case Thursday in Rod Blagojevich's second corruption trial. And in making that announcement they told the judge that by day's end, they need the former governor's lawyers to let them know what, if any, witnesses they plan to call in the former governor's defense.
Of course, the witness everyone is most interested in is Blagojevich himself. While it is known that efforts have been made to prepare him to take the stand, defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky remained coy Wednesday about whether his famous client would testify.
After promising repeatedly to take the stand in his first trial, Blagojevich and his lawyers ended up offering no defense, declaring the government had proved nothing. For his part, Judge James Zagel has repeatedly telegraphed through his rulings that Blagojevich and his lawyers needed to re-think that strategy. As the proceedings wrapped up Wednesday, Zagel said he thought the prospect that there would once again be no defense was "extremely unlikely."
Potential witnesses for Blagojevich range from Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to Raghu Nayak, the fundraiser who prosecutors say offered a bribe to get Jackson appointed to a U.S. Senate seat. A bevy of the prosecution's own witnesses also could be re-called to the stand to face questions that were not allowed during the prosecution's case.
In one scorched-earth scenario, jurors might even be treated to an appearance by Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
Wednesday brought a tooth-grinding standoff between defense lawyer Sorosky and Lon Monk, Blagojevich's former best friend and chief of staff. The defense had announced that their cross examination of Monk would last about an hour. Monk was on the stand for nearly five hours, with the government objecting to nearly every question Sorosky attempted to ask. Zagel sustained over 130 objections, and at one point threatened to force Sorosky to terminate the examination completely.
"This is an abuse of cross examination," a disgusted Zagel told the defense.
Indeed, after prosecutors noted that jurors were actually writing down some of the questions which had not been allowed, Zagel read an instruction to the jury, reminding them they were not to consider any courtroom banter which had been the subject of his rulings.
Prosecutors have at least four witnesses left, but Sorosky promised the judge that the defense cross of those witnessed today would be brief.