What the Blagojevich Jury Thinks | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

What the Blagojevich Jury Thinks

It was a lone hold out juror that refused to convict former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on the marquee count in the case. Eleven jurors believe Rod Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he won the presidency.

Prosecutors spent a lot of time on the Senate seat allegation. They made it the center piece of their case telling jurors to view the rest of the allegations through the prism of the alleged senate seat scam. That's probably because the most compelling pieces of evidence were the secretly recorded phone calls in which Blagojevich mulls over various ways he can make money from the appointment. That's what convinced juror Steve Wlodek.

WLODEK: It just became more and more apparent based on the conversations that were happening between aides, the governor, people in his inner circle, outside his inner circle, all sorts of things, there was just a blatant violation of what the law is in that the Senate seat should not be considered based on what I can get for it, it should be based on what is good for the state. I feel that that's my Senate seat and it should have been handled better. There were a lot of different candidates that were worthy of it and they were not considered.

Wlodek is a 36-year-old human resources manager from northwest suburban Bartlett. He says he's disappointed the jury didn't convict on the Senate seat allegation, but he says the lone hold out was just voting her conscience. He said the issue came down to something defense attorneys pushed, that Blagojevich was just engaging in political horse-trading. Wlodek says he doesn't have a problem with political horse-trading, but he says that's not what was going on here.

WLODEK: This was more of me, me, me, what can I get for me and so that's where I saw it as a blatant violation of the law.

But Wlodek says the jury was more divided on some of the other alleged schemes. For example, Blagojevich was charged with demanding campaign contributions from executives with a hospital, a racetrack, and a road building association. Prosecutors say the governor wanted contributions in return for carrying out state actions that would benefit their respective industries. Wlodek says he voted for guilt on many of those charges, but others weren't convinced, partly because prosecutors relied more heavily on testimony, instead of tapes.

WVLODEK: We did favor the tapes quite a bit because you really can't dispute the tapes, I mean, that's the person talking.

Wlodek says the jury also had a difficult time figuring out what to do with Robert Blagojevich. Robert became the head of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund shortly before the governor was arrested.

WLODEK: It was split. 6-6, 5-7 however you want to break it down. Some of them were, wrong place, wrong time kind of thought process on him, that, you know, four months on the job and all this happened and he was just doing what his brother was telling him to do.

Wlodek says there was one count against Robert where the jury voted 11 - 1 to convict. He says overall, he's unhappy with the way the case turned out because he thinks there was guilt on three quarters of the charges.

WLODEK: I feel like we let the people of the state down. I feel that there was some blatant disregard for the laws and our senate seat and some other bills that were out there, and justice was not served.

Prosecutors say they plan to retry Blagojevich, something Wlodek supports and he thinks it will be more successful.

WLODEK: You get every juror except one, that's a pretty telling story from that standpoint, because it's close. They got the senate seat it's just a matter of who's on the jury.

The imminent retrial guarantees that this will continue to be a big story legally, but also politically.

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