Blagojevich Lawyers To Ask For New Trial, Claim Juror Broke Rules
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UPDATED 12/19/11 5:21 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Lawyers for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be back in court on Monday to ask for a new trial, claiming misconduct by the forewoman from the jury that convicted him of 17 corruption counts.
Defense attorneys, in a motion filed on Friday, claim that the forewoman – Connie Wilson, of Naperville – may have violated court rules by showing a copy of her jury questionnaire to students at Metea Valley High School in Aurora when she spoke to a class there earlier this month.
Blagojevich’s attorneys will appear before U.S. District Judge James Zagel at 10 a.m. Monday to discuss their motion for a new trial.
Citing media reports, Blagojevich’s lawyers said Wilson made a presentation to students at Metea Valley in Aurora regarding the Blagojevich trial and “showed sketches of the former governor during his testimony and copies of her jury summons and questionnaire.”
The defense team pointed out that even they were not allowed to keep copies of the jurors’ questionnaires after they were filled out and that they were to be held under seal and confidential.
“Mrs. Wilson, if indeed she does have a copy of her questionnaire, has violated a rule of this court and engaged in potential jury misconduct,” the defense team wrote in its motion. “If it is found that Ms. Wilson violated court rules, her violations must result in a new trial.”
It is not clear from the filing or from media reports, however, if Wilson showed the students a blank jury questionnaire or a copy of her own filled-out questionnaire.
Blagojevich’s attorneys want to question Wilson under oath about the questionnaire she showed to students and how she got it.
“It is unknown how Ms. Wilson could have obtained a copy of her questionnaire absent some misconduct and in violation of the Court’s rules,” defense attorneys wrote.
They also noted two other jurors were removed for rules violations. Details of those violations were redacted from public copies of the defense team’s motion.
Wilson was chatty earlier this month on the day that Blagojevich was sentenced.
“I am amazed at how many people have come asking for some of us to go talk to them,” she told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.
But on Sunday, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli stopped by Wilson’s home, but was met by a man who refused to identify himself and would not allow us to approach the door. The previously talkative Wilson also didn’t return telephone calls.
Blagojevich was sentenced earlier this month to 14 years in prison. He is scheduled to report to prison on March 15.
Only federal Judge James Zagel knows whether he plans to immediately take up the emergency motion on Monday. But CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller says the defense’s argument is a Hail Mary tactic.
“This motion’s the long shot of long shots,” Miller tells CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli. “I admire the tenacity of the defense team for doing it, but they have no chance of winning this motion.”
But Miller says there’s a chance Blagojevich’s legal team could overturn his 14-year sentence on appeal.
“The best grounds that have for an appeal is that the ex-governor did not get a fair trial; he was deprived of putting on a defense, he was deprived of calling witnesses who would testify as to what’s on those tapes, he was deprived of the tapes” Miller said.
Miller adds that talk in the courthouse that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald specifically sought and succeeded in getting the case before Judge Zagel may also resonate with the appellate court.
“This case was not randomly assigned to Judge Zagel,” Miller said. “This case ended up before Judge Zagel because the (William) Cellini case was already there, and the government chose to put the cases together.”