Judge Calls Blagojevich’s Motion For New Trial ‘Hare-Brained’

UPDATED 12/19/11 – 4:17 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal judge angrily scolded a bid by attorneys for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to get a new trial, calling their motion alleging potential misconduct by the jury forewoman “hare-brained.”

And the forewoman, Connie Wilson, denied that she improperly showed students at an Aurora high school a copy of her completed jury questionnaire, saying she only showed them a blank juror qualification questionnaire that she obtained from the court clerk’s office.

In a filing last week, defense attorneys sought an evidentiary hearing to determine if Wilson violated the judge’s order that jury questionnaires be kept confidential. They said if Wilson did violate any rules, Blagojevich should get a new trial. He was been convicted of multiple corruption charges, including allegations he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.

But U.S. District Judge James Zagel said, “I intend to deny this motion, which I regard as hare-brained,” adding he never told jurors that their questionnaires were to be kept secret.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

“I never instructed the jury that the questionnaires … had to be kept confidential,” Zagel said in court Monday. “This motion was prepared without any adequate thought.”

In an interview with CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole on Monday, Wilson said she never would have showed anyone her completed jury questionnaire. She didn’t even have access to it, as all completed questionnaires were handed over to the court clerk’s office and placed under seal.

“Everybody who knows me knows that this would be nothing I would ever do,” Wilson said. “I can’t get my forms. Those are sealed in court.”

Wilson explained that she got a copy of a blank jury questionnaire from the court clerk’s office to help explain the jury process to students.

Wilson said her husband was present in court Monday, but she herself was not. She said she thought the whole issue was silly.

Zagel suggested he could have held defense attorney Lauren Kaeseberg – who wrote the motion – in contempt of court and suggested she seek a lawyer for herself and write an explanation to him showing why she thought the motion was valid.

The judge also suggested the defense team should write a letter of apology to Wilson.

But Kaesberg stood by the motion afterward, saying, “We believe in the motion and still believe we were entitled to the (evidentiary) hearing.”

The defense’s motion cited recent media reports that Wilson recently spoke with students at Metea Valley High School in Aurora and showed them courtroom sketches of Blagojevich and copies of her jury summons and questionnaires.

“I know we filed this motion in good faith,” Kaeseberg added. “We were just trying to find out if she had (her jury completed jury questionnaire) and how she got it.”

Defense attorneys noted that they have not been allowed to contact jurors themselves, so they have no way of knowing what Wilson showed the students or how she got the questionnaire without a hearing before the judge.

“This is the only remedy we had,” defense attorney Aaron Goldstein said. “We in no way intended to hurt Ms. Wilson in any way.”

Two newspaper reports last week incorrectly reported that Wilson showed the high school students a copy of her jury questionnaire. But Goldstein said because defense attorneys were not allowed to speak to jurors, the only way they had of knowing if Wilson showed the students her own questionnaire or a blank one was by holding a hearing so they could question her.

“We’re not saying anything wrong was done or not. We have enough information, based on this article, to determine that there should be a hearing,” Goldstein said.

“I have probably 300 witnesses over at the school,” Wilson said. “They’ll say, ‘Yeah, all we saw was a blank form.’”

Defense attorneys also said that two other jurors from the trial were dismissed for violating court rules and, if Wilson had violated any rules, Blagojevich should get a new trial.

Kaeseberg and the rest of Blagojevich’s defense team said they have not decided whether or not they would send an apology to Wilson as the judge suggested, saying they wanted to sit down and discuss the matter with each other first.

But Wilson said Blagojevich’s lawyers don’t need to apologize to her.

“I think they’re just doing their jobs as lawyers,” Wilson said. “If I were on the other side, I’d want my lawyers doing their best for me, too.”

Although Wilson said she won’t let this experience stop her from talking to others about her experience as a juror, she said, “I think that’s why jurors don’t want to get involved – people don’t want to be on a jury – because this type of thing can happen,” Wilson said.

Zagel even said he could have held Kaeseberg in contempt of court, but said he would not do so because she is a relatively new lawyer.

He also said the motion “smacks a little of a retaliatory motive against a juror who returned a verdict that you and your client don’t like and it’s improper.”

Zagel said even if Wilson did show the students her filled-out questionnaire, it wouldn’t have mattered, because it only would have revealed private biographical information about Wilson, not sensitive information about the trial.

“These were not notes about the case, this was her information,” Zagel said. “How you could have concluded that a juror is lawfully restricted from saying these things is just beyond my imagination.”

Blagojevich was sentenced earlier this month to 14 years in prison for his convictions on 18 corruption charges. He is scheduled to report to prison on March 15.

CBS 2 Web Producer Todd Feurer. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole contributed to this report.

  • richard collins

    Will they please put this !!@#@#$ in prison and forget about him!!!!

    • SpfldJimbo


    • ComSenseWiz

      Just remember that there are skilled, quality attorneys and there are also incompetent, morally corrupt ambulance chasers. In this case, it is the latter and not the former.

  • Lyndia

    Leave the man alone. It is a shame that he is being railroaded to prison for a crime that never occured, they refused to play all the tapes and this judge did not allow his attorneys to put up a defense without objecting. The Judge did not like him and that is clear. This man is going to do 11 years and nine months for a crime that never occured and you want to call this justice?

    Rob, no matter what happens, keep your chin up.

    • I've Got This Thing.........

      Are you smoking those crack rocks again, Lyndia? Crime that never occured? Where the hell have you been? Is attempted murder not a crime because the crime wasn’t carried out? Of course not. His attempt to get rich illegally is half of his sentence. The other half came from his constant arrogance and TV appearances claiming that the tapes were wrong. He would have received a much lighter sentence if he had expressed remorse and apologized to the citizens of Illinois upon being convicted. Hopefully this will be an example for any other politicians who end up convicted of similar crimes.

      • Bob

        Attempted Murder. Really, what is that? Do they give you a Nobel Prize for “Attempted Chemistry” ?

    • SpfldJimbo

      Is that you?

    • SpfldJimbo


      “…a crime that never occured”.

      Please lookup “Inchoate Offense”……………..

    • Scarf


  • Just the Average Joe

    Time to go Rod! The sooner you start your time the sooner you finish. The public has already wasted enough time and money on you and your misconduct. You have been given a fair trial, now stop resisting and move on.

  • GO Southside

    My Question is Why was this women able to keep any of her notes from this trial. When I servered for Jury duty two summers ago. i was on a case for 2 weeks at the end of the trail we were forced to leave our note pads. No note where allowed to leave the jury room at any time. this was a small case. I would have thought any note pads must have been left behind. I think the judge is at fault. He is a clown to let this happen.

    • lESA fRANK

      UMMM can you read? If you took the time to read the article above you will see that she never had any of the paperwork because it was “sealed in court”. It is people like you who embarrass the rest of us who are jurors and actually understand how the system works. Who is the clown here…DUMBO.

    • Steve

      Would you PLEASE read the article? She did not keep her notes. She showed them a blank questionnaire!

      • Lou

        How do you know that? She should say that under oath in a hearing. Glad he is gone, but this trial was a mess. Would also like to know more about the Rezko involvement with him and other politicians including Obama. Also why not release all the tapes now the trial is over and who is being protected?

    • Gimcy

      No one would want your notes anyway. You can’t write.

  • Josh

    It sounds like corrupt roman senators squabbling over the emperor’s crumbs.

  • Mark

    She showed the students a blank jury questionnaire that she obtained from the federal court’s jury services office.

    The Judge said “I never instructed the jury that the questionnaires … had to be kept confidential,”

    She did not have her her “jury completed jury questionnaire”.

    Case closed after apology. What more is there to argue.

  • Justin Case


    Attempted Murder. Really, what is that? Do they give you a Nobel Prize for “Attempted Chemistry” ?”

    Bob, you are a MORON

    • sa

      +1 Total reading comprehension problem on an example.

  • SpfldJimbo

    What did you expect out of them your Honor? Brilliance?

    “Retaliatory motives”? That’s how Blago and his ilk rolled……………

  • Katie

    I have to laugh, What happen here has been happening for decades. They just started to get bold and prosecuting everyone. Right Wrong, I guess it is just a matter of opinion. If you read, the article said Judge never instructed the jury to keep quiet on the Questionnaires. Just the attorneys
    Quote; “I never instructed the jury that the questionnaires … had to be kept confidential,” Zagel said in court Monday.

    Blagojevich attorneys are grasping for straws and sliding down. That is understandable, they just want to see if there is anything they can do to postpone this sentence.

    He had his time in court and he was found guilty on 18 counts.
    The sooner he leaves, the sooner he will be home with the family. But I can see why he would like to stay as long as Possible with his famly. It will be a hard adjustment.

  • SpfldJimbo

    “Hare-brained”………..or “Hair-brained”?

    Good play on words, Your Honor.

  • Clearhead

    The whole thing is typical of CHICAGO based chicanery. Who knows what the actual details of all this really are? No one. This is CHICAGO. Business as usual. Rod apparently didn’t hold his tongue correctly. (Read that any way you wish.) AND — a CHICAGO judge to boot !! Why heck, he can’t even spell “HAIR-BRAINED” correctly. Carry on, Rahmmie boy.

  • Mike G

    I am on fan of Blago but judges are supposed to be impartial. This judge is so far from that it is ridiculous. I bet he ends up getting a new trial because of this joke of a judge.

    • phil


  • Mojo

    Quit the hyperbole! If you think these never ending motions are contemptible, then cite them for contempt. Lawyers never let it go until they cross the line and then they never suffer the consequences. Liars is what they are, not heroes doing their job.

  • Jim Hamilton

    So revoke his extra month for being stupid and wasting my tax dollars

  • Centurion

    BLAGO SAW A JUROR BLINK. He is now screaming MISTRIAL!

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