Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Oh, To Be a Fly on the Wall...

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With the Rod Blagojevich case now in the hands of the jury, who wouldn't like to be a fly on the wall in the jury room? What are they thinking? How many have already made up their minds?

"They take this extremely seriously," jury expert William Healy says. "They want to feel good about the decisions they make."

Healy, who advises defendants and prosecutors alike for the trial consulting firm Decisionquest, says the dynamics of the jury room can change very quickly. And it can happen early in the case.

"Oftentimes, it is their first time discussing it with each other," Healy said. "And you will find there is some surprise amongst the group, what other people think. Because sometimes jurors say, 'I saw the evidence and it is clear he didn't do anything wrong.' And then others will say, 'he did everything wrong!'"

Tensions? Not usually at first, he says.  After all, these people have spent the last two months together, eating lunch, discussing their families.  But at the same time, they were not supposed to be discussing the case. And then Wednesday came and they suddenly were in deliberations. And when those discussions begin, Healy says, sometimes jurors dig in.

"Especially if there's a disagreement right off the bat. Someone saying, 'I am never ever going to find him guilty!' And there are a lot of people who feel the opposite? There's going to be tension from the beginning."

So what does Blagojevich face from a roomful of fellow human beings? Jurors, after all, are not lawyers. Some may find him to be an amusing rogue. Others, as taxpayers, may be outraged at his recent behavior or his time as governor.

"If you don't like somebody it's much easier to say, 'This is clearcut.  He's a bad guy.  I'm not gonna accept these excuses that he's an 'accidental criminal,'" Healy explained.

"It is definately a possibility that they would have a mixed verdict here, in other words that they would find not guilty on some of the charges, and guilty on other of the charges, as we like to say, splitting the baby! That way they feel good. They've given the prosecution their due. They can go home and say look, he didn't do everything correct, but the prosecution didn't prove everything as well. So it's the easiest verdict for them to find."

Blagojevich, of course, brought his children to court for an eleventh hour appearance during closing arguments.

"Jurors take these very seriously," he says. "And with those daughters there, they look at it and say, 'This is a father, this is a husband, we have a decision to make whether this person is to spend time in jail.' They want to make sure they right if they are sending someone's father to jail."

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