Today’s Sun Times has a Mark Brown article about the upcoming verdict in the Rod Blagojevich trial. He has an observation that very few writers have made: it only takes one person to keep Rod/Rob free. It is human nature to invoke the term “devil’s advocate” when charged with resurveying evidence. One stubborn person, with a unique prism, can keep a jury from consensus. I know this from one of my jury duty assignments. A few years ago, I was part of a federal jury for a drug case involving a concealed weapon. It was as straightforward as a case could be. The car had been modified with a special trap door to hide drugs. A dog called to the vehicle went nuts in the exact area where drugs were secreted. Drugs were found. And a gun. The officers were credible in their testimony. No defense witnesses were called. The evidence was given on Thursday, and we were to return Friday for instructions and deliberations.
On Friday,we started deliberations after a fine turkey sandwich. I was not a foreperson, preferring to keep a low profile. I figured it would take an hour to go over the evidence before the first vote. To my surprise, one juror had an elaborate conspiracy theory. The police planted the drugs, she claimed. They do it all the time, according to her, in her neighborhood.
Everyone was patient with her. She took this as support. Hours passed. We went around the table. All but this maverick voted guilty. She said she would never send a man to jail based on cop testimony. The fact that federal agents were involved, not Chicago’s finest, was not germane to her. People became less tolerant.
Common sense was invoked. She was asked if she wanted this gun toting fool in her neighborhood, hanging out where her kids played. The cops could have put the weapon on him, she assured us. That’s what they do.
The judge sent in the bailiff, wondering why no disposition had been made. There was some discussion about taking a break, or returning Monday. My mates became even less tolerant. The break was denied, and our obstreperous juror was desperate for a cigarette. No smoking in the building, no permission to leave. She caved. We filled out the form, and the bailiff accompanied her for a smoking break. The defendant and counsel were summoned. We returned to the jury box, pronounced “guilty”, were thanked for our service, and headed home.
The jurors in this case have reams of material to ponder. The rules of law are subtle. The theatrics have been mind boggling. The panel will require a great deal of time for serious consideration. One lone ranger can derail them into a deadlocked jury. I am sure the defense is praying for a maverick with the “courage of her convictions” to gum up deliberations. That is whom Sam Adams was talking to- the skeptic. The prosecution needs an academic consideration, less passion. I’m sure they worried when jurors were convulsed with laughter at an old joke about a mule getting shot after three chances. It will take me the rest of my life to figure out what that joke had to do with the trial. I hope the jury spends zero minutes on it.
Here in the world at large, we are hoping that this jury is focused and undistracted. If there are edgy jurors, I hope Nicorette is available. This case is a big deal for Illinois. Time will tell.
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