Updated 05/23/11 – 6:04 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday wouldn’t say whether he’s been called to testify at former Gov. Blagojevich’s corruption trial, but did say he is willing to do so.
One of the allegations against Blagojevich is that he wanted to withhold a $2 million grant for a school in Emanuel’s Chicago district when Emanuel was on Congress unless Emanuel’s Hollywood-agent brother, Ari, held a fundraiser for Blagojevich.
“I am ready if asked to answer questions,” Emanuel said.
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The school eventually got its money and no fundraiser was held. Emanuel didn’t testify at Blagojevich’s first trial and hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. Blagojevich is also accused of attempting to sell off the appointment of President Obama’s Senate seat. Emanuel had been selected as Obama’s chief of staff and played a key role in Obama’s transition to the White House.
Blagojevich’s attorneys are scheduled to open their defense case on Wednesday. They were in court on Monday to review proposed instructions that U.S. District Judge James Zagel will give to the jury when they begin deliberations.
Defense attorneys also filed a new motion for a mistrial on Monday, citing the scores of objections that Zagel has sustained against them while they were cross-examining prosecution witnesses. Zagel repeatedly reprimanded the defense team for making arguments in the form of questions, for asking questions that were otherwise out of bounds.
“The exorbitant amount of objections and the limitations imposed on the defense have impermissibly shifted the burden of proof in this case to unconstitutionally force the defense to put on evidence,” attorneys wrote. “The presumption of innocence has been decimated.”
Defense attorneys have argued that Zagel’s rulings on the questions they are allowed to ask have prevented them from asking meaningful questions of the government’s witnesses. But Zagel has repeatedly said that many of the questions defense attorneys want to ask can only be brought up if the defense recalls those witnesses during their own case.
“The government has the burden of proof and the defendant has no legal obligation to provide any evidence or prove his innocence. However, to an individual unschooled in these constitutional principles, one would never know it based upon the instant case” defense attorneys wrote in their motion. “There has been an eradication of the presumption of innocence in this case.”
Zagel did not rule on that motion on Monday. The trial is not taking place on Tuesday, as the judge has a previous commitment for that day, so the trial will resume on Wednesday.