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Rod Blagojevich: Done In By a Smart Jury

Far from the old “12 Angry Men” saw, Blagojevich’s peers got along, developed clever techniques to weigh his guilt and innocence, and methodically analyzed the stagecraft that got him elected in the first place.

Rod Blagojevich trial

 

The Trib and the Sun-Times both have great articles showing what went on in the jury room. I’m impressed at the applied pedagogy:

Instead of private ballot, they did a “fist to five” vote, a consensus-building technique Karin Wilson suggested. If a juror raised a hand with all five fingers, that meant they were leaning strongly toward guilty. A fist was innocent. If the juror was somewhere in between, the number of fingers held up gave an indication of which way she or he was leaning.

Unsurprisingly, she’s a teacher—I’d never heard of “fist to five,” but it’s a real thing.

These folks were sharp:

Jury forewoman Connie Wilson, 56, of Naperville, said she thought she recognized what Blagojevich was up to when he started picking and choosing details from his personal history. The details appeared to mirror personal information that came out when the judge questioned the jury pool before testimony began, she said.

That latter Sun-Times article really deserves to go into the Blago file, capturing as it does in a compelling miniature the gifts and failings of Blagojevich, and explaining, I think, how he managed to be successful. (Keep in mind that for a brief but real period, he was the next Bill Clinton.) He’s great at connecting…

Often referring to the former governor as “Rod” in post-verdict interviews, they described him as “personable” and said his likability made their jobs even harder.

… and terrible at scheming, politicking, or anything that really required organization and subtlety

John Wyma points out that Blagojevich did not wear his congressional lapel pin—a move symbolic, Wyma says, of the representative’s view of Congress as “a group of folks who spent lots of time reinforcing a Washington perspective on things. He didn’t get elected to Congress to wear a pin and go to caucus meetings.”

… i.e. the sort of behind-the-scenes wheel-greasing and back-patting that wins you friends instead of enemies

Blagojevich has wrangled with practically everyone in the statehouse. The governor and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also chairs the state Democratic Party, have been embroiled in a nasty political feud worthy of the Hatfields and McCoys. Blagojevich has also warred frequently with his lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, as well as with each of the other state constitutional officers—comptroller Daniel Hynes, attorney general Lisa Madigan, secretary of state Jesse White, and treasurer Alexi Giannoulias—all Democrats. He’s butted heads with Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley on numerous occasions. He has even sparred with members of the state supreme court over their pay. “This is a governor who I don’t think has a single ally, except for Senate president Emil Jones—and that’s tenuous at best,” says Mike Jacobs, a Democratic state senator from the Quad Cities. “I almost feel sorry for the man.”

… and allows you to not only govern, but end your term with the confidence that someone powerful will have your back as a citizen, instead of having to trade a Senate seat for a job. Or even if you do have to try to sell a Senate seat, to do a better job at it.

I’m not sure how to prevent a Rod Blagojevich from being governor. (Or a George Ryan, for that matter.) But when you watch the debates, or read the campaign literature, it’s worth keeping in mind Connie Wilson and 11 other jurors sequestered away and reading between the lines.

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

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