POLITICS AUGUST 17, 2010
What is there to say, except George Carlin’s seven dirty words? The Blago jury’s inability to progress beyond agreement on two counts in 13 days makes the whole lot of them seem like they’re two sandwiches shy of a picnic. In addition to having gotten precious little done, they haven’t even considered the wire fraud counts—the crux of the government’s case. To put it another way, the tapes played for the jury (out of 500 available hours of wiretaps) have not been discussed! And of course no one knows whether the two counts agreed upon were Guilty, Not Guilty, or one count per brother, going either way.
Although it would have seemed draconian, not to mention costly, I thought from the beginning that the jury should have been sequestered. Because they were not, I believed for deliberations, at least, they should have been stashed in a hotel. This would have had a two-fold benefit. It would have “encouraged” them to thrash everything out, and it would have removed them from harm’s way, i.e., family members and friends who had opinions, albeit without having been there.
(Small digression about a fun memory involving sequestered juries. In the 70s, in my syndicated column, I riffed on an AP story about the wife of a juror who said that she was sure there was hanky-panky amongst some of the jurors locked up in the hotel for three weeks. I wrote that this gave new meaning to the phrase “hung jury.” For my troubles, I got thrown out of The Cleveland Plain Dealer; the publisher’s wife thought my humor too dirty “for a family newspaper.”)
But back to the Blago jury! When they sent out one of their (few) notes asking for guidance, they said they’d only reached accord on two counts. Judge Zagel sent back this note:
You should deliberate on wire fraud counts to the extent necessary to enable you to decide on those counts. We recognize that your stated inability to reach agreement on other counts may establish to your satisfaction that you will be similarly unable to reach unanimity on the wire fraud counts. Nonetheless, a deliberative decision on those counts should be made even if it is a decision that you can't reach agreement.
Imagining the worst (a hung jury on the most serious charges), the government would definitely retry the case—perhaps reducing the number of counts from 28 to something more manageable. Indeed, the original charge struck some as “complex,” and it sure seems as if the jury agrees. Should this happen, Zagel would again be the trial judge. I’m sure he’s thrilled at the thought of going through all this for a second time. Also, if this jury craps out, it will be yet another black mark on Illinois politics, a state that can’t walk without stepping on its own dick (to use the local patois). Even more mind-bendingly, it is said that many judges in the building are “flummoxed” by what’s going on with this jury. Or not going on.
And so it is that the deliberations will continue, as will the Blagojebitching, until the judge pushes the jury into making a decision, one way or the other. One thing is certain, however: When that decision is announced there will be fireworks, and the day’s top story will be Blagoing, Going, Gone. What we don’t know is whether it will be to the slammer or back to his house.