It's Up to the Jury Now... - NBC Chicago
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It's Up to the Jury Now...



    Rod Blagojevich has done everything he can to convince 12 citizens he is not guilty of the massive indictment he faces.

    Actually, the former governor did nothing, having withdrawn his promise to testify. But his attorney Sam Adam Jr. sent his own blood pressure through the roof the Dirksen Federal Building Tuesday as he shouted and stalked the courtroom, insisting on his client's innocence.

    "I promised you in opening statement that Rod was going to get up there and take the stand," Adam said. "I had no idea that in two months of trial, they would prove nothing."

    In a lengthy argument where he bounced from topic to topic, and from corner to corner of the courtroom, Adam alternately screamed, and whispered, and waved his arms as he assailed the government's case.

    "He had no intent to bribe anybody," Adam shouted. "No intent to extort anybody!"

    He acted especially outraged at the allegations that Blagojevich attempted to sell an open Senate seat.

    "Think about who they're telling you he's trying to extort," he exclaimed. "The President of the United States! Give me a break! The number one law enforcement official in the country!"

    "What I did was just the best I could do," Adam said, as he departed the courthouse. "And that's what I promised the governor, and I delivered everything I possibly could. I put my heart into it. I don't know if anybody could say I didn't do the best I could. I just hope it's good enough!"

    Adam took jurors through every scenario, arguing that Blagojevich had never intended anything corrupt, and pointing out that in some of the alleged corrupt schemes, he granted everything the aggrieved parties wanted, before representatives ever approached them about campaign cash. For instance, he argued, a tollway expansion was revealed, before the road builders were approached for a massive donation.

    There was no doubting Adam's emotion for his client, but some observers wondered if his message was literally lost in the shouting, as prosecutors objected dozens of times to what they said were distortions of the testimony.

    "I think the jury wants to hear the facts," said law professor and criminal defense attorney Richard Kling. "They want the lawyer to say what the evidence is, not what the evidence isn't. And I think that's why Judge Zagel sustained a bunch of objections."

    "I think lawyers assume that closing arguments are more important than they really are," Kling said. "The jurors have the facts. The jurors are going to go back there. I've had juries where I go back to the jury room, and they raise things that I forgot about completely in closing argument. So I don't think they're nearly as important as the lawyers think."

    Still Adam, gave it his all, insisting on his client's innocence, his naivete, and at times, even suggesting he was something of a dim bulb.

    "As much as I like him, this is a man who considered appointing Oprah Winfrey!" Adam said. "No one's going to say he's the sharpest knife in the drawer."

    But when it was their turn, the government fired back that Blagojevich was plenty smart, a "practiced communicator" who knew full well what he was saying to underlings in scores of conversations recorded by the FBI.

    "This is one of the great frame-ups of all time," prosecutor Reid Schar declared, mocking the defense's contention of Blagojevich as innocent man. "He is the accidentally corrupt governor!"

    Schar told the jury that in order for them to believe the former governor, they had to disbelieve a series of witnesses who took the stand and essentially told the same stories.

    "Not only are these people lying, but they somehow manage on the tapes you've heard, to get him to frame himself!"

    Wednesday, of course, brings what will be, for Blagojevich, the most important day of all. Judge James Zagel will deliver a lengthy series of technical jury instructions, explaining each count of the indictment and telling them what they must decide on each one to find the former governor and his brother Robert guilty.

    After that, the jurors will retire to the jury room. Zagel will extract the five alternates, designating the panel which will actually deliberate. He will instruct the alternates that they are to remain free of media coverage or discussions of the case, on the off chance that they may still be required to step into deliberations if one of the sitting jurors must leave.

    It is a process which dates to the first days of the Republic. And it is the process which will determine if Rod Blagojevich, once the most powerful person in Illinois, keeps his freedom.