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Blagojevich Defense Appears To Be Working Toward Appeal

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Rod Blagojevich speaks after his conviction. (CBS)

Rod Blagojevich speaks after his conviction. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Rod Blagojevich’s defense team appears to have taken its first steps toward filing an appeal of his conviction on 17 corruption counts last month.

A motion filed on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel to preserve the questionnaires that potential jurors filled out at the start of jury selection in April. Ultimately, 18 jurors were seated, including six alternates. A panel of 12 jurors convicted Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts on June 27, acquitting him of one other count and deadlocking on two others.

The defense did not explain why they want the jury questionnaires preserved, but it is a common tactic for defense attorneys to challenge the jury selection process when appealing a conviction.

In fact, during the trial, Blagojevich’s attorneys filed several mistrial motions, arguing that jury selection in the case was flawed, claiming that prosecutors misrepresented how long it would take to present their case.

Defense attorneys noted that prosecutors successfully sought to dismiss several potential jurors from the jury pool, arguing that serving on a lengthy trial would be too much of a financial or personal hardship for them.

But the defense noted that prosecutors rested their case after only ten days of testimony.

“It is evident that many of the hardship excusals were not warranted,” defense attorneys wrote in a mistrial motion filed on May 23. “Moreover, it was the government that argued in many cases for certain individuals to be excused for hardship. This was an improper manipulation of the system which resulted in the removal of a significant number of working class and men and women of color from the jury pool.”

“The government‟s actions with respect to the jury prevented Blagojevich from obtaining a fair trial by an impartial jury made up of a cross-section of the community,” defense attorneys added in the motion.

Zagel rejected all defense requests for a mistrial, but many of the defense arguments in those motions could be used as the basis for an appeal.

The defense team did not comment on Tuesday’s filing.

Blagojevich likely faces a sentence of about 10 years in prison, according to legal experts. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

–Todd Feurer, CBS 2 Web Producer

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