CHICAGO – After more than a week of silence, jurors in the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich threw the courtroom into confusion Wednesday when they sent a note to the judge suggesting they may be deadlocked on at least some counts.
In their 11th day of deliberations, the jurors told Judge James B. Zagel that they had made “a reasonable attempt” to reach a unanimous decision, but asked for guidance if they can’t reach a unanimous decision on any given count.
Zagel, who read their note aloud in court, said he would send a reply asking jurors to be clearer about what they meant so that he could advise them. He said he would tell them it was OK to agree on some counts but not others.
Michael Ettinger, the attorney for Rod Blagojevich’s brother, co-defendant Robert Blagojevich, said neither the judge nor attorneys in court understood exactly what the note was saying.
“We don’t know what it means. The judge doesn’t know what it means,” Ettinger said. He said the jurors had gone home for the day, and the judge would have another hearing today.
Ettinger conceded that trying to glean just what the jury meant was guesswork – but he believes they’re hung, he said.
“A hung jury is better than a conviction,” he said.
Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said it’s likely that jurors have reached a verdict on at least some counts.
“If they hadn’t reached a verdict on anything I would have expected some language saying that,” he said.
Rod Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash.
His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.
Legal observers say they are not surprised that the jury’s six men and six women may be stymied by a complex case that produced two wire carts full of evidence and more than 100 excerpts of FBI wiretap recordings.