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Blago Jury Finishes First Day Of Deliberation; Judge Rejects Mistrial Motion

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Rod Blagojevich

Flanked by his wife Patti, Deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks with reporters as his case once again goes to the jury. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 06/10/11 – 5:46 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – As jurors completed their first day of deliberations in the Rod Blagojevich retrial, the judge denied a motion for a mistrial filed by the former governor’s attorneys, claiming the judge showed bias during the trial.

The defense had argued that Zagel’s repeated rulings against them and in favor of the prosecution indicated that he “formed a biased opinion regarding Blagojevich and the facts of the case.”

In arguing for the mistrial, defense attorney Lauren Kaeseberg said that Blagojevich didn’t get a fair trial.

“You may not like us, and you may not even like our client,” Kaeseberg said, adding that they expected Zagel should be able to put aside his personal opinions of them and Blagojevich and ensure a fair trial.

But Zagel said he had made no finding that Blagojevich is guilty or innocent, because that’s the jury’s job.

“I’m not interested in doing someone else’s work,” Zagel said. “I was never called upon to rule and decide the question of guilt.”

The defense’s motion also claimed that Zagel misled the defense team into putting their client on the stand by leading them to believe legal precedent would allow Blagojevich to testify that he thought what he did was legal, but then “pulled the rug out” by barring such testimony.

Zagel said he only told the defense that he thought Blagojevich “could well save himself by testifying,” and that he still holds that opinion, but that he did not force Blagojevich to testify.

“He testified because it was clearly his best choice,” Zagel said, adding that Blagojevich has repeatedly said leading up to both his first trial and the retrial that he was eager to testify in his own defense.

Meantime, the jury met for its first day of deliberations on Friday and went home without a word about their progress. Zagel said they did elect a foreperson and have set a schedule for deliberations.

Clerk of Court Michael Dobbins said the jury has informed court officials they will meet Mondays through Thursdays at 9 a.m. each day until they reach their verdict. Officials haven’t said what time the jury will end its deliberations each day, but they left on Friday shortly before 4 p.m.

Deliberations took 14 days in Blagojevich’s trial last summer. Zagel said “all bets are off” as to when this jury will reach a verdict.

Closing arguments in the retrial wrapped up Thursday evening after nearly six weeks of testimony.

Lead prosecutor Reid Schar summed up the government’s case Thursday afternoon, saying the evidence proved that Blagojevich took actions to get campaign contributions in exchange for official actions and that he tried to get something for himself in exchange for a U.S. Senate seat in 2008.

“You’re the only ones who can show this defendant what is right,” Schar said. “Your verdict will speak the truth and the truth is he is guilty. Find him guilty.”

But defense attorney Aaron Goldstein said Blagojevich never shook anyone down or took any actions to exchange his power as governor for any personal benefits.

“Rod didn’t make one shakedown, one demand,” Goldstein said. “He didn’t come anywhere close to doing any of that.”

Goldstein emphasized that in each and every shakedown scheme alleged by prosecutors, Blagojevich “didn’t get a dime, a nickel, a penny, not in campaign contributions, not in his pocket, nothing.”

He also attacked the credibility of the government’s witnesses, accusing them of either intentionally lying to the jury or to appease prosecutors or just telling jurors what the government wanted them to hear.

Blagojevich, 54, is charged with 20 criminal counts, including allegations he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, and that he tried to shake down a number of executives for campaign cash.

He has pleaded innocent to all charges.

–Todd Feurer, CBS 2 Web Producer

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