Did Blagojevich's Testimony Hurt His Case? One Juror Saw Him as Manipulative
Some jurors liked former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But one found him manipulative. An alternate noted he remembered everything for his lawyers but seemed to remember nothing when questioned by prosecutors. But jurors were unanimous in finding him guilty of 17 counts involving allegations of scheming to raise campaign cash in exchange for favors and trying to sell the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama.
Blagojevich didn’t testify in his first trial last summer when he was found guilty of one count of lying to the FBI. The holdout on the other counts was a woman, a 67-year-old grandmother who found his recorded comments so disorganized that she didn’t think his plotting amounted to a criminal conspiracy, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
In the new trial, there were 11 women and one man on the jury, and this time they heard Blagojevich testify, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The jurors found Blagojevich guilty of 17 out of 20 counts after 10 days of deliberations. Jury consultant Howard Varinsky told the Sun-Times before the verdict that he thought a female jury was a plus, from a defense standpoint. “Guys are just quicker to condemn,” he said. Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer wasn’t so sure. “If the defense theory is, ‘Rod can charm them,’ I don’t think that holds water,” he said.
Cramer turned out to be right. One woman identified as Juror 103 sat closest to the witness stand, and Blagojevich would often whisper a hello or a “how ya doin” to her, WBEZ reports. “Because he was personable,” Juror 103 acknowledged, “it made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors, you know, we had to put aside the fact that whether we liked him or didn’t like him and just go by the evidence that was presented to us.”
Juror 140 wasn’t swayed by Blagojevich’s personality; she viewed his testimony as manipulative. “I would have rather heard just the facts,” she said.