Blagojevich verdict: Will there be a retrial?

Ex.-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich says he and his family are victims of federal government persecution. But he says the government was unable to prove he did anything wrong. (Aug. 17)
Pat Brown
Criminal Profiler
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 1:00 PM

A federal jury in Chicago convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich of one count of lying to the FBI but deadlocked on 23 corruption counts Tuesday, a setback for prosecutors who spent years pursuing the voluble and theatrical Democrat.

At an impromptu news conference after the verdicts on Tuesday, the former governor was unbowed. He declared that the verdicts were a vindication, and he vowed to continue to fight the prosecution by Obama's Justice Department.

Criminal profiler Pat Brown was online Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the trial, the verdict, the possibility of a retrial and what effect that may have on the Democrats and the midterm elections.


Pat Brown: Good afternoon, everyone! Criminal Profiler Pat Brown here!


Washington, D.C.: Why do you think the jury was deadlocked? It seemed like they had believable "evidence" with all that was on the audio tapes, did't they? Or didn't the jurors buy it as reliable?

Pat Brown: Washington DC, the evidence was so overwhelming and much of it was so all over the map for some of the jurors that they couldn't wrap their minds around it. The audiotape, now that was the easy one.


Fairfax, Va.: What are the chances for a retrial? Will it come down to being a political thing?

Pat Brown: Fairfax, wasn't it political to begin with? ::laughs::this is one problem some of the jurors encountered who believed that much of the evidence was only "business as usual" with politicians. Rather than focus on whether Blago broke the law, they focused on how "outside the norm" he was and if he intentionally did so.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Any word yet on whether the lone hold-out juror will be investigated to see if s/he was bribed, threatened, extorted or otherwise tampered with, or is sufficiently mentally ill to have compromised deliberations?

Pat Brown: I have heard nothing of that, but interesting thought considering the political nature of all this. However, it is not rare to have a hold-out considering the difficulty of getting people to all agree on anything. Also, there is the possibility of having a juror be right on the money but the others are following a leader; that juror holds out and looks like HE/SHE is the problem. Lastly, sometimes a person with a narcissistic personality disorder makes the jury and they will be damned if they will agree with anyone because they are the only ones who can be correct. Such is the jury system.


Bethesda, Md.: Pat, what about the "collateral damage" to his wife and his two (very) young daughters? What will happen to them, especially now that so much money has been spent defending him? And will they ever be able to live down the stigma of being his daughters? He's not a violent criminal, nor has he harmed anyone that I can see. And I agree that he's probably no worse than many politicians going back as far as ancient Rome. He got caught, that's all.

Pat Brown: Well, Bethesda, I do think Blago's wife knows what she bought when she married him and has been living with his behaviors for many years. If she has not moved out by now, she, perhaps, doesn't mind being part of the spectacle! 'Tis an exciting life at least! As for his daughters, well, children always suffer the sins of their parents.


Jury polled: I'm curious as to whether the jury was polled and how significant those results would be in decision to retry some/all counts.

Pat Brown: I am sure the prosecution is going to do a full analysis of how this trial got away from them, which part was their failing in not proving to the jury Blago's guilt, and which part was the jurors not finding Blago guilty on all counts in spite of the evidence and presentation.

_______________________ Blagojevich jurors blame outcome on lone holdout, prosecutors' flaws (Post, Aug. 18)


Chicago, Ill.: So it looks like one juror for sure, and possibly one or two others on some of the counts, simply dug in their heels and refused to find Blagojevich guilty on anything having to do with the Senate seat. Reading between the lines you can sense the frustration from the other jurors when they say things to the effect of "we were all ready to convict, the evidence was clear, but she just didn't see it that way."

Now that the frst trial has played out, how in the world are they going to find an untainted jury pool for the retrial? Won't this same attitude show up in at least one or two new jurors, especially given Chicago demographics? Thanks.

Pat Brown: So true, Chicago, the next jury may also have a hold-out. Juries are a crap shoot, any prosecutor will tell you. This is one reasons so many cases never make it to court, in spite of some pretty convincing evidence. Prosecutors don't want to lose, so they tend to be darn sure the case is airtight before they hit the courts. I think this was one that got away from them because of the massive publicity and they were rather force to proceed. The evidence may well be there but it is so convoluted in the sense of the players and the meanings of everything, it was a tough case to try. That only one person held out is actually the surprising part to me.


Arlington, Va.: Just a quick comment from a former and future Illinois resident. For those of you who don't have close continuing ties to the state, I don't believe it is possible to understand the level of anger that there is in the state at the ex-governor. The anger does not split on party lines. He put the state in an even worse position than he found it through incomprehensible and illogical decisions... which most people didn't think was possible. So for those who find him entertaining or want to cheer him on, please consider this before praising him. This is not a political divider for the great majority of Illinois residents -- most of them just want him gone, either via prison or some other manner.

Pat Brown: I agree, Arlington. Of course, while this may end Blago's political career and he may be hated by many, he is perfect for television and radio, so I am sure he will show up there!


Detroit, Mich.: Taking shots at Pat Fitzgerlad and his 95 percent conviction rate is not going to help Blago in his retrial. Plus, this was hardly a victory for the the defense, the prosecution was one juror away from convicting on the most serious charge of extortion. Additionally, the jury had unanimously agreed to convict on another charge last week before a juror changed their mind this week.

Pat Brown: I am not sure what potshots at Pat Fitzgerald you are speaking of, but it is a fact that prosecutors are very careful about which cases they take to trial. This prosecution almost did succeed (and it did on one count) but I am sure Fitzgerald is not a happy camper today.


Bethesda, Md.: Was the whole 14-day trial a spectacle? Do you think the jurors were "taken in" by Blagojevich and his celebrity?

Pat Brown: I don't think many of the jurors were enamored by Blagojevich, but I think they may have not been able to distinguish between law breaking and political maneuvering. The other problem was in the conversations thrown about. The jurors needed to figure out what statements were absolute and what was just chit-chat and joking around with political colleagues. Did he mean it or didn't he? Are we taking what he said out of context or did he mean it exactly that way? I think this is the toughest part to discern.


Arlington, Va.: Will he do time for the one count they found him guilty on?

Pat Brown: I think he will do time for that although probably not a whole lot.


Washington, D.C.: Do you think they will have any trouble picking a new jury?

Pat Brown: I think they will bring in a top jury consultant and really dissect what went wrong this time and how they make sure all the jurors on the next round come together for the prosecution. Of course, it is rather a funny notion that we must work so hard to stack the cards in order to win but with a jury system that brings in people off the streets with zero training in law and with many not familiar with all of the complicated mess this trial was about, it is amazing only one juror held out!


Kensington, Md.: Has there been any reaction from the Obama administration?

Pat Brown: I haven't heard anything yet!


Chantilly, Va.: I can't get past how incriminating those audio tapes sounded, especially the one that said "I'm not giving it up for _ _ _ ..." Why do you think the jury deadlocked?

Pat Brown: I think those audio tapes were pretty interesting as well, but it is the matter of whether Blago is being a blowheart or a crook!

_______________________ Video: A federal jury deadlocked Tuesday on all but one of 24 charges against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Juror Erik Sarnello of Itasca, Ill., said one woman on the jury "just didn't see what we all saw." (AP, Aug. 18)


Washington, D.C.: Is there a chance there won't be a retrial because of the federal money it would cost and that it would be dismissed and be over? Blagojevich said so much yesterday, accusing the authorities of spending the taxpayers' money on his trial.

Pat Brown: That was a good move on Blago's part! It IS an issue on how worth it a new trial will be. I think the prosecutor's office will have to decide on their chances of success the second time around and how the taxpayers are indeed going to view the retrial: a boondoggle or a fight against corruption on behalf of the citizens?

_______________________ Photo Still: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks with reporters as he leaves his home to take daughter Annie to camp in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. A day after hearing the verdict in his political corruption trial, Blagojevich was on dad duty, taking his younger daughter to camp. (AP, Aug. 18)


Fan of "The Fix": On his online WaPo chat today, Chris "The Fix" Cillizza pointed out that the score isn't 23-1 in Blago's favor, but actually 0-1-23 against him. Valid point, don't you think?

Pat Brown: I think it is a nice spin, but I think Blago won the day hands down. All he got was lying to the Feds over some minor issue which really wasn't the issue anyway. But it was the one thing which was crystal clear that he did, so that one wasn't going to be hard to get him on.


Richmond, Va.: I heard a news report that the jury requested many pieces of testimony/transcript to review, but the judge denied the request. Is this normal? Are juries required to go by memory when considering the charges? Isn't it reasonable to request to review information so the jury can reach a unanimous decision?

It seems to me that our culture these days promotes opinion over fact too often; is this also a new trend in jury trials, where one can reimagine the trial without reference to actual transcripts?

Pat Brown: Yes, this is often a problem with our justice system. I think it is crazy myself. The jury should be able to study and review to their heart's content before they make a decision based on faulty memory.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: The New Yorker had an interesting article on Blagojevich the other week. To me, it revealed that Blagojevich and those around him have some serious issues (potentially narcissism) that go beyond "politics as usual." He seems to be almost paranoid and a poor judge of reality.

Pat Brown: Indeed! I believe that might well be true. Let's face needs a very high opinion of oneself to go into politics. Sometimes a self-serving politician can still serves others because both benefit. However, narcissism surely is an issue for a number of politicians and it can get out of hand.


Washington, D.C.: This just in: "Jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) said Wednesday that a lone holdout prevented conviction on key counts, but they suggested that prosecutors also were partly to blame for a mistrial on 23 of the 24 charges, portraying the government's case as flawed and confusing." Does this mean Fitzgerald screwed up? Do you think he will be replaced?

Pat Brown: I don't doubt that much of this was extremely confusing. Sometimes the number of counts one is going for and the overwhelming amount of information connected with each, especially in a complex political case, will do the prosecution in. The juror simply becomes tired of trying to figure it all out (after all, the jurors have zero training or education for the most part in anything being said in court by those with huge amount of education, training, and experience) and throws in the towel.


Re: Richmond, Va.: Wow, they couldn't review the transcript?!?

You often hear that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, yet the judge, by not releasing the transcript, essentially made the jury be eyewitnesses to the trial and then had to render a verdict. That's very Kafka-esque.

Pat Brown: Oh, Richmond, what a fabulous analogy! So very true! I love it!


Chicago, Ill.: Count me as one of those who is not surprised by the verdicts but was expecting acquittal. Blago is the perfect metaphor for politician..If every politician in Illinois, or any other state at any level, that asks for, or grants favors for political gain in the form of campaign cash, is guilty of a crime then all would be in jail..Secondly, there was no evidence presented that Blago realized any personal gain from corruption like the previous GOP governor Ryan.

Pat Brown: This goes to show, Chicago, the level of depravity to which a politician must sink in order for him to be considered unethical. But,not surprising, is it?


Pat Brown: It was a pleasure to be here today! I hope, regardless of how little Blago got nailed with at this trial, we might see a new era of higher expectations and accountability for our politicians. If we have laws, they ought to abide by them like the rest of us. Have a great afternoon and let's see if Blago II shows up before his new reality show hits the airwaves.


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