Friday, July 23, 2010

Blagojevich deliberations start next week

By Jamey Dunn

A jury could begin deliberating the fate of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as early as Tuesday.

The defense in Blagojevich's federal corruption trial rested Wednesday without calling a single witness to refute the prosecution’s corruption case against the former governor. Blagojevich opted not to testify, even though his lawyer, Sam Adam Jr., had told jurors during opening statements that his client would take the stand.

Adam said at a Chicago press conference that the government did not prove its case, so there was no need to present a defense. He acknowledged that telling jurors Blagojevich would take the stand and then changing strategy could damage his client's credibility. The jury has been instructed not to take the change in plans into account while deciding on Blagojevich’s guilt or innocence, but Adam said human nature dictates that it will likely play a factor. He plans to explain the decision to the jury during Monday’s scheduled closing statement, for which the Chicago Tribune reported he requested two and a half hours from Judge James Zagel.

The jury will hear also hear from the prosecution and Robert Blagojevich’s defense team. The former governor’s brother is facing charges from the time he spent heading up his brother’s political fundraising operation. Zagel plans to give legal instructions to jurors on Tuesday and send them into deliberations.

Zagel has not ruled on a motion to drop the conspiracy charges against Blagojevich but appears to believe there is enough evidence to move forward with the case. Zagel reserved the possibility that he may reconsider the motion after closing arguments.

While it looks as if arguments could be wrapped up Monday, little in this trial has gone according to estimated schedules. The prosecution finished earlier than expected, and in a surprise move, the defense did not present a case. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that proceedings are running behind schedule today, and it is possible that could affect the plans for Monday.

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