What is going on with the Rod Blagojevich jury?
"There's clearly a problem in the jury room," said former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins. "It's a bad day for the government."
The jury signaled Thursday that they had only reached agreement on two of 24 counts. And they said they had not even considered 11 wire fraud counts, which are considered a core part of the prosecution's case.
"I would not be happy if I was the government," said Richard Kling of the Chicago Kent College of Law. "I would have expected that by now, in two weeks of trial, that the jury would've reached agreement on more than two counts. And if I were the government, I would have expected they would be guiltys."
The jury sent Judge James Zagel a note early Thursday:
- "We have deliberated and voted on all acts and counts with the exception of the wire fraud counts. We have reached unanimous agreements on two counts. We have been unable to agree on the remaining counts."
Zagel ordered the jury to deliberate on the wire fraud counts, long enough to take a vote. And he told them they should do what they can with the remaining charges.
"A deliberative decision by you should be made on those counts, even if the decision is that you cannot reach unanimity," he told them.
"If the jury comes back and says, 'We're still stuck with two counts,' I think this judge will take that verdict [and] dismiss this jury. We have to hear guilty, not guilty, brother, former governor, and then they have to decide about retrying this case," Collins said. "The government will retry this case. They have to. They're committed to this case!"
But throughout the day, court observers, defense attorneys, and especially prosecutors, wondered how, exactly, the jury has ruled so far.
"There could be two guiltys. There could be two acquittals with no other counts resolved,"
If that happens, and the jury can agree no further, the largest question might be why jurors chose to skip the eleven wire fraud counts completely.
"It is very rare in a high profile case to have a hung jury for 22 of 24 counts," said Collins, saying he had always felt the allegations that Blagojevich attempted to sell a Senate seat might prove problematic. Most of the wire fraud counts concerned the alleged Senate shakedowns.
"A reasonable jury could say, 'You know, what was the agreement? What was the deal? And it didn't happen,'" Collins said, noting that jurors "don't like incomplete crimes."
"This indictment was full of attempts, it was full of conspiracy, full of things that did not go all the way to the finish line," he said.
Still, he predicted much will be revealed when prosecutors learn the exact tally of the jurors' votes.
"If the government loses, how bad did they lose? Eleven to one, government? Or 11 to one, defense? Ten to two, or exactly the opposite?" he wondered aloud.
Those votes, he said, could be large factors as the government ponders how to proceed with the case.
That is, if the jury doesn't come back with unanimous verdicts on all counts next week. The drama resumes Monday.