On Wednesday, as U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel charged the jury, Patti Blagojevich knitted in the courtroom, while her husband, disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, and his brother Robert, the co-indictees in the corruption case, leaned back in their chairs and watched.
Earlier in the day, Rod Blagojevich's defense team doled out birthday jokes in honor of the ex-governor's defense attorney Sam Adam Jr.'s 38th birthday. Robert Blagojevich's separate defense team, led by Michael Ettinger, was much more somber. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the courtroom was the trio of thin U.S. assistant attorneys, Reid Schar, Carrie Hamilton and Chris Niewoehner, along with their star witness, the salt-and-pepper-haired FBI special agent Daniel Cain, who intently studied the jury during their instructions, occasionally shrugging his right shoulder. Cain, a 24-year FBI veteran, was the prosecution witness who spent six years gathering the 5,000 wiretap calls that have been critical to the government's case against the Blagojevich brothers. (More than 100 of Cain's tapes were played during the trial.)
After the boilerplate jury instructions were given, a portly older woman approached Rod Blagojevich, hugging him and touching his face before giving him a piece of Serbian candy while wishing him luck. After she left, the jovial defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. quipped, "Is that an aphrodisiac?" "I don't need it," Blagojevich replied, later telling the media, "It's in God's hands now."
More than God, however, the case will be in the hands of a dozen jurors, six men and six women. On Thursday morning, the jury sent a note to Judge Zagel asking for a transcript of the prosecution's closing arguments. Zagel said, "I think I know what they are looking for" but that closing arguments from either side "aren't evidence" and shouldn't be used as a "road map" even in this case, "a complex and repetitive indictment." He turned down the request, adding, "if they are unable to work through this, I expect the issue will arise again."
Here is a description of each of the 12 jurors based on statements they gave during jury selection back in June:
Juror 103: White female in her 20s. She's a soft-spoken legal assistant who specializes in foreclosures, but wants to go back to school to become a teacher. She has a 3-year-old son and likes to play softball.
Juror 105: African-American female, middle aged. A Chicago public-school teacher, she instructs sixth and seventh graders in math and pre-algebra. Her husband is an state probation officer. She listens to talk radio and had a relative who had some legal difficulties but believes she can be fair. She said she remember Blagojevich's arrest but hadn't kept up with his trial prior to being a juror.
Juror 106: African-American female, a senior citizen. A retired official for the Illinois Department of Public Health, she once served as the director of teen counseling for the Chicago Urban League. Her son-in-law is a lawyer and she has twice served as a juror, reaching verdicts in both cases. She handed out campaign literature for a relative who ran for public office. She listens to National Public Radio and liberal radio talk shows.
Juror 119: White female in her 30s. The mother of two daughters has worked in investment accounting for about 15 years and her spouse works in the banking industry. She's an avid marathon runner and has given small annual donations to political organizations. Her favorite reading material is the magazine Runners World. She said she doesn't watch the news. "I don't have time," she explained during jury selection. "I have two daughters, and we don't have cable."
Juror 121: White female, mid-20s. She's an accounting major at Western Illinois University who is interested in law. Her father is a police officer and her mother works as a civilian in the evidence room of the Hoffman Estates police department in suburban Chicago. She's never seen a trial before and doesn't watch the news often. But she did pay attention when news first hit that Governor Blagojevich was arrested.
Juror 123: White male, late 20s. He's a human-relations manager for a law office. He volunteers at a family shelter and likes to surf the Web daily for news. His father is a lawyer and his parents are politically active. He has also written form letters for politicians but said at the beginning of the trial that he had a neutral opinion about the case.
Juror 127: White female, a senior citizen. The retiree likes reading, knitting and stitching. She worked for the Illinois Department of Employment Security for 26 years and said Blagojevich was technically her superior when he was governor. She's a union member and a Salvation Army donor.
Juror 128: White male, late teens to early 20s. The polo-shirt-wearing juror has applied to a community college for the fall. He worked in computer sales at Best Buy and his mom is in the Army. He is undecided on what he wants to do in life, but he likes to play sports and video games and hang out with friends. He couldn't recall having heard anything about the case, although he recognizes Rod Blagojevich as the former governor.
Juror 133: White male, middle aged. Sporting glasses, tattoos and a cane, the former Marine staff sergeant spent more than a decade traveling the world, including serving time in Beirut when he hurt his hip and was medically discharged. He is now on Social Security disability benefits and had hip-replacement surgery in 2000. He told the judge it is hard to sit or stand for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time, but he would be willing to serve as a juror despite his physical ailments. He was once a superintendent in a manufacturing plant.
Juror 135: Japanese-American male, senior citizen. He was born in California's Manzanar internment camp in 1944, where many Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WW II. The retired former videotape librarian served as a Marine in Okinawa and is a Vietnam veteran. His wife was a Chicago public-school teacher. He once served on a jury that reached a verdict. He said that he considers all that he's heard before the trial on the Blagojevich case on both sides to be hearsay.
Juror 137: White male, senior citizen. With his snowy white beard, this juror looks like a thinner version of Santa Claus. He works for Johnson Controls as a service-operations agent managing 56 contracts for building automation controls in the city of Chicago. He was in the Navy for 21 years and served in Operation Desert Storm. He is a contributor to the Naval Academy, of which he is an alum. He's very detail-oriented and likes to win computer strategy games. His oldest son is a diabetic. He seems very relaxed in the jury box.
Juror 148: African-American male, senior citizen. The retired letter carrier and Navy vet is involved in Bible study. He has served on two juries: one that reached a verdict and the other, a murder case about 10 years ago, that ended up hung because one juror was uncomfortable with the possibility of the death penalty.