CHICAGO (CBS) – The federal judge presiding over the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he won’t release the names of the jurors until the day after the verdict in Blagojevich’s second trial.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel ruled late Monday that he would keep the jurors’ names secret until 9 a.m. the day after their verdict.
Zagel has criticized reporters for what he called “harassment” of jurors after Blagojevich’s first trial ended in a deadlock on 23 of the 24 counts against the former governor. The judge cited complaints from some jurors that reporters repeatedly knocked on their doors and called their homes seeking interviews.
One juror complained that a reporter knocked on her door every 15 minutes until almost midnight on the day of the verdict and told her that he would keep knocking at her door whether she answered or not, Zagel wrote.
In his ruling, Zagel said he feared that some potential jurors would refuse to serve if they feared similar treatment by the media.
“The jurors’ names should not be released immediately. This is so, in part, because the conduct of some media after the names were released was improper and, in some instances, abusive,” Zagel wrote. “Jurors deserve respect for their privacy and security after their service has concluded and, even if this were not so, the judicial process is harmed if qualified jurors are unwilling to serve because they do not want to endure what some jurors in this case experienced.”
The judge also wrote that jurors deserve a short period of time to rest and recover from the fatigue of serving on a lengthy trial. Zagel said jurors’ names will be released at 9 a.m. on the day after the verdict. He also will give jurors at least 12 hours after the verdict before he releases their names, in case the verdict comes down late in the day.
“Essentially, we are telling the jurors how to protect their own privacy,” Zagel wrote. “There is little they will be able to do in the early hours of the morning, and they are likely to need rest and quiet time after the pressure of deliberations. They should be allowed to have that time. One-half day is not too much.”
Blagojevich argued that jurors’ names should be kept secret for an extended period of time, because the of the trial’s major publicity, according to Zagel.
“Defendant, in a well-argued brief, requests that I keep the names of the jurors from the public for a period of great length, perhaps even years. He may be right, but I am reluctant to keep jurors’ names concealed for an extended period of time simply because a case is high profile,” Zagel wrote.
Zagel said that, after Blagoejvich’s second trial ends, jurors might be provided with “No Trespassing” signs to keep reporters away from their homes. He also suggested that wealthier jurors might want to hire private security to help protect their privacy.
Journalists have argued that jurors’ names should be released as soon as possible, in part because public interest in the verdict will wane after the trial is over. They have also argued that reporters can help determine if jurors reached a verdict properly.
Blagojevich’s second trial starts April 20.
Last month, prosecutors dropped three of the remaining charges against Blagojevich, in an effort to simplify the case against him. After the first trial, several jurors complained that the case against him was too complex.
–Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago Web Producer