JoAnn Chiakulas Blagojevich juror speaks out, Prosecution case weak, Emphasis on selling Obama senate seat
JoAnn Chiakulas Blagojevich juror speaks out, Prosecution case weak
Although I do not totally agree with Blagojevich juror JoAnn Chiakulas, she does make a point about the case that the prosecution didn’t make against ex governor Rod Blagojevich. JoAnn Chiakulas has finally spoken out about her decisions. From the Chicago Tribune August 27, 2010.
“Battling stomach pains and fatigue, JoAnn Chiakulas would take the train into the city each morning knowing that her resolve was disappointing some people and infuriating others.
But the 67-year-old grandmother said she also knew that as a juror in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial, she had a responsibility to follow her conscience and the law. She said she did not believe he or his brother committed a crime with their actions to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, so she would not find them guilty despite what other jurors, prosecutors and, perhaps, the general public wanted.
If it was going to be 11-1, so be it.
“I could never live with myself if I went along with the rest of the jury,” Chiakulas told the Tribune in her first media interview since the trial ended. “I didn’t believe it was the correct vote for me.”
The jury deliberated on the sweeping corruption charges for 14 days and, in the end, convicted Rod Blagojevich of one count of lying to the FBI. The panel was split on the 23 other counts, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial and the government to promise a retrial.”
“Chiakulas and two other jurors broke their silence in an interview Wednesday night and offered their account of the deliberations and the trial’s aftermath. Also attending was longtime Chicago Tribune contributor Ruth Fuller, a family friend who helped arrange the meeting.
Chiakulas said she found Blagojevich’s recorded statements on the Senate vacancy to be so scattered and disorganized that his actions did not reach the level of a criminal conspiracy.
One day he chattered about being the Indian ambassador, for example, then in the next conversation he discussed another plan. In the space of a few weeks, he talked about appointing, among others, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Oprah Winfrey or himself.
She said she never saw him formulate a clear plan to sell the seat. But in voting him not guilty, she stressed she did not find him innocent.
“I thought he was narcissistic,” she said. “I thought he was all over the place. I thought he was just rambling.”
It also concerned Chiakulas that some key witnesses who testified against Blagojevich had cut deals with prosecutors before testifying, she said.
“Some people in (the jury room) only saw black and white,” Chiakulas said. “I think I saw, in the transcripts and in the testimony, shades of gray. To me, that means reasonable doubt.””
“Still, the holdout label upsets Chiakulas and some other jurors because, they say, it wrongly suggests she was a Blagojevich apologist. To the contrary, she readily acknowledged the governor’s faults during deliberations and made it clear that she didn’t condone his behavior or leadership, Moore said.
“She admitted he talks too much, he sounds like an idiot sometimes,” Moore said. “She said, ‘But we’re not here to determine whether he talks like an idiot sometimes. That’s not what he’s on trial for.'””
“While Chiakulas shunned the media spotlight in the days after the verdict, the loquacious Blagojevich appeared on national television to thank her for her resolve and proclaim that she has reaffirmed his faith in God.
When asked about his comments, Chiakulas frowned and slightly shook her head.
“I didn’t do it for him,” she said.”
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