Jury Foreman: Blagojevich Crossed The Line
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UPDATED 06/28/11 7:26 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) –- The woman who served as jury foreman in ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption retrial says the panel hopefully sends a message with its multiple guilty verdicts against him Monday.
“We know that there’s a lot of bargaining that goes on behind the scenes – we do that in our everyday lives and business and everything. But I think in this instance, when it is someone representing the people, it crosses the line, and I think we sent a pretty clear message on that,” jury foreman Connnie Wilson told reporters during a news conference after the verdict.
Wilson offered more insight in an interview with CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli Tuesday morning. She said the jury deliberated for a lengthy 10 days to be sure they came to the right decision.
“We wanted to be very thorough,” she said. “It’s innocent until proven guilty, and we wanted to make sure that we had everything uncovered.”
She said by choosing to take the witness stand in his own defense, Blagojevich ultimately made his situation worse.
“In some instances, he helped himself. There were a couple of things that definitely, we took into consideration,” Wilson said. “But in other instances, he talked a little too much, and once he went that route, that might have hurt him?”
She said she felt sympathetic toward Blagojevich’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, and especially their two daughters. Patti Blagojevich broke down crying as the verdict was read in court Monday.
“You’re a mother and a wife, and everybody’s human, and you have to look at that with some compassion,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t change anything of how he took his own actions, but it is very difficult to watch that.”
As to the Blagojeviches’ daughters, Amy and Annie, Wilson said: “They’re young. This is going to be a difficult thing for them to live with.”
But she said at the end of the day, the evidence against Blagojevich proved guilt beyond doubt.
“Some of the evidence was overwhelming; I think that’s where we found, just, there was no other way of going,” Wilson said. “Once you delve into the evidence, it was pretty clear to us.”
Wilson would suggest an appropriate sentence for Blagojevich.
“That’s for (U.S. District) Judge (James B.) Zagel to decide,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes to have to decide that; very difficult decision.”
Wilson said she is a Naperville resident and a former director of music and liturgy for a church. Other than Wilson, jurors have not identified themselves by name, but rather by number.
The 11-woman, one-man jury deliberated for 10 days on 20 charges against Blagojevich, including allegations that he tried to strong-arm campaign contributions in exchange for official actions and that he sought to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
“We felt that it was very clear he was trying to make a trade for the Senate seat,” Juror 140 said Monday.
Jurors said they were thorough as they went through the 20 counts, sometimes taking multiple votes, and were respectful of each other’s opinions. They convicted Blagojevich of 17 counts, acquitted him of one count and deadlocked on two counts.
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Many jurors said they found Blagojevich a likable person after he testified in his own defense, which was challenging when it came time to evaluate evidence.
“Because he was personable it made it hard to separate that from what we had to do as jurors,” said a woman who identified herself as Juror 103.