By Robert A. Loeb
The Blago nightmare is almost over. The federal jury returned a verdict of guilty on 17 of 20 counts against the former governor. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of his criminal culpability, and for that matter, regardless of the jury’s verdict -- he’s been a national embarrassment.
Let’s not rehash the coverage in the news media here. We’ve already been inundated with that, and it was three whole news cycles ago. And even though he invoked Elvis once again as he waited for the verdict (“my hands are shaking and my knees are weak”), I’ll try hard to refrain from further cheap Elvis references at his expense. Even though other song titles from Elvis include “That’s what you get for lovin’me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Please release me.” Rather, let’s take a look at the case and the verdict from a lawyer’s perspective.
The media is asking, “how was the second trial different from the first, and did that difference help produce a different result?” I’m not so sure they were very different. Sure, the difference between a hung jury and a conviction is great, but is the difference between an 11-1 vote and and a 12-0 vote so significant when evaluating trial tactics? It has been reported that the government streamlined the case against Blagojevich, eliminating some counts and some evidence in an attempt to make the case clearer to the jury. Both juries seem to have been thorough and meticulous, but it still took this jury two weeks to deliberate, and an indictment with 20 remaining counts is not exactly simplified. I’m suggesting that the government did not really need to alter its case after the first trial.
From the defense point of view, the fact that different lawyers represented Blagojevich in the second trial may have lessened the entertainment value, but the cross-examinations of witnesses parroted the successful moments from the first trial.