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Blago holdout juror was a retired state employee, handed out campaign literature for a relative who ran for office, and listened to NPR and liberal talk radio

Ace of Spades has the flaming skull up for this exclusive update about Blago's hold out juror. He links to this report from Fox Chicago:

Jurors who have been interviewed so far will not identify the juror, other than to say the juror was a female.

FOX Chicago News reported that speculation is centering on juror Jo Ann Chiakulas of Willowbrook, after a second-hand acquaintance said that she has been saying for weeks that she would find Blagojevich not guilty.

Chiakulas is a retired director from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Contacted Tuesday night, she told FOX Chicago News she would call on Wednesday if she wished to talk about the case.

On one count at least, Chiakulas voted with her fellow jurors, agreeing to convict Blagojevich of lying to federal agents.

He also notes that Chiakulas was for a period of time active in the Chicago Urban League.

Ace isn't suggesting that anything illegal happened. What he is saying is that this juror clearly was interested and active in Chicago politics, so she should have been disqualified from the juror:

I don't think that there's some direct thing going on here -- but this is obviously a highly political woman, steeped in dirty Chicago machine politics. And she knows who gets hurt and who gets helped based on her verdict.

What. Was. She. Doing. In. The. Jury. Pool.

If You're Wondering About Her Last Name... She married a Cypriot. He was a family and employment lawyer... who represented unionized workers, like Chicago bridgeworkers.

Again, I'm not alleging payoff. I'm alleging that this woman had no business being anywhere near a jury.

Well, that is interesting. If you're not sure if this is a big deal, ask yourself this. Would someone who watched Fox News, listened to Rush and Glenn, and was a Tea Party member have made it on to Tom Delay's jury, if he had been tried?

Added Thursday morning: I wrote and published this post late last night after taking my three kids on a day trip to Mackinac Island. When I got up this morning and read Jim Addison's comment I thought perhaps in my fatigue I overreacted to what Ace considered to be a bombshell development.

Then I read SCSIwuzzy's comment about serving on a malpractice jury:

When I sat on a medical malpractice jury they asked if anyone had a doctor, nurse or other medical professional in their family, and if anyone had a friend or relative with a negative outcome in a hospital/medical setting. Plenty of "could you render judgement without bias?" questions. Even asked about religious beliefs regarding assisted suicide, organ donation and life support. I cannot imagine that a juror was allowed to pass out campaign literature for ANY candidate in ANY race at a trial of a politician accused of abusing his office.

Jim makes the valid point that Chicago is over flowing with politically active liberal NPR listeners and if Patrick Fitzgerald challenged every one of them for the cause of being politically biased in favor of Blagojevich, there wouldn't have been much of a jury pool to pick from (according to the rules of voir dire, challenges for cause are not limited in number, but the judge can overrule a challenge if he or she thinks the reasons are not established well enough).

Perhaps Fitzgerald should have requested a change of venue. Since he didn't and accepted the final jury panel that included a liberal who was active in Chicago politics, Patterico argues that Fitzgerald deserved to lose this case.

Update: Here's a little perspective on why it was a really bad idea for Fitzgerald to accept the jury when one of its member was, for all intents and purposes, a Chicago political operative. AOLNews reported yesterday that the holdout juror insisted that what Blagojevich was caught on audio doing was nothing more than Chicago politics as usual:

Rod Blagojevich appeared to have at least one key juror in his corner, who believed the former Illinois governor was simply engaging in politics as usual rather than anything illegal.

Jury foreman James Matsumoto, appearing on NBC's "Today" show this morning, said some of the votes were 11-1 in favor of conviction, but a female juror sided with Blagojevich, arguing "that he was a politician, he was talking to other politicians, sometimes his fundraisers, sometimes his chief of staff or deputy governors. He was just talking."

"She saw it as no crime was being committed, it was just talk, political talk. That was her position," Matsumoto said. "All of us as jury respected her position, her right to have that opinion."

I agree that attempting to sell a senate seat to the highest bidder is Chicago politics as usual. It's also illegal. This mindset of "oh, it's just harmless Chicago politics as usual" is why Chicago remains a cesspool of criminal activity. Equally shocking is that the 11 other jurors who were convinced that Blago committed a crime and wanted to convict him for it actually thought the holdout juror's view was respectable.

What's respectable about making excuses for criminal activity? These Chicago political operatives are completely disconnected from the rest of America.


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Comments (17)

Well, Ace would need to est... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Well, Ace would need to establish a more direct link between the woman and either Blago or a potential witness in the case to make his claim just.

In liberal Chicago, there are no shortage of NPR listeners, and the fact she handed out campaign literature for (apparently) her late husband's two failed tries at office would not disqualify her for cause.

Prosecutors are only allowed a few "peremptory strikes" and need to be careful how they use them. There could have been people in the pool with a much scarier record than this lady, and older people tend to judge corruption more harshly. Also, prosecutors can set up appeals if they use their challenges in a "racially unbalancing manner," so striking an old black lady was not a gimme. Those calling for Fitzpatrick to be disciplined for letting her on the jury are nuts.

Now, if as some Chicago media have reported, she was telling friends and family she would not vote for conviction while deliberations were ongoing, she might find herself in contempt of court. But there are no changes in mistrials over hung juries. It's back to square one.

In fact, with only one evidently stubborn juror on Blago's side, Fitzpatrick has to like his chances at retrial.

Correction, Kim: Ace didn't... (Below threshold)

Correction, Kim: Ace didn't break out the flaming skull; he broke out the flaming Blago skull.

A very important distinction...

J.

Hearing about the one hold ... (Below threshold)
Prairie:

Hearing about the one hold out I immediately thought foul. A lifelong resident of this corrupt state I can tell you that this does not surprise me. Sad isn't it?

Last week Obama came in supposely for his birthday celebration here in Chicago and had Governor Quinn waiting in the limo for him.
I'm sure they weren't talking about the weather. The fix was in - ahhh yes, the gift of all gifts.

This trial of Blago should have exposed the underbelly of Obama and his crooks and yet there was barely a scratch?? Crooks everyone of them crooks.

I suspected as much; Fitzge... (Below threshold)
Bob:

I suspected as much; Fitzgerald has lost damn few cases that have gone to trial and this case is not one he should have lost. But I don't like the idea of going after individual jurors who were picked at random and gave weeks of their life to this case. I'm willing to assume that she acted out of a belief Blago was not proven guilty rather than some hidden agenda. You have to remember that Blago won reelection with a strong majority of Illinois voters, even though many Democrats had condemned him in the strongest terms. Also, she did vote "guilty" on one charge, so she was not purely a blind obstructionist.

During jury selection prosp... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

During jury selection prospective jurors are asked questions to determine their suitability for that particular trial. Unless she anwered questions dishonestly, there's not much one can say.

No one is likely to go after her legally and since she is a private citizen, I think we should leave it alone unless she wishes to step into the spotlight of her own volition.

And like Jim said, Fitzpatrick has to like his chances at retrial.

What blows my mind is Blago's crass self congratulatory remarks when there was only one hold out on his jury. The guy is a crook through and through and everyone knows it.

So it's possible that a lef... (Below threshold)
oldpuppymax:

So it's possible that a leftist, public employee was willing to phone in her vote? Why, you SURPRISE me!!! Sounds like a new name for Hussein's Supreme Court short list has been identified!!!

Having served on juries, mo... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Having served on juries, most recently earlier this year, I cannot believe she made it past just selection. They always ask about the jurors professions and their close family. When I sat on a medical malpractice jury they asked if anyone had a doctor, nurse or other medical professional in their family, and if anyone had a friend or relative with a negative outcome in a hospital/medical setting. Plenty of "could you render judgement without bias?" questions. Even asked about religious beliefs regarding assisted suicide, organ donation and life support.
I cannot imagine that a juror was allowed to pass out campaign literature for ANY candidate in ANY race at a trial of a politician accused of abusing his office.

If she has been saying for ... (Below threshold)
John S:

If she has been saying for weeks that she would find Blagojevich not guilty, she should be prosecuted. Period. I suggest a change in venue for the next trial to rural Texas.

She can draw a conclusion t... (Below threshold)
Nine-Fourteen:

She can draw a conclusion the way she wants. Im just wondering why ol' jug ears was not called in as a character witness?

Jury panels are microcosms ... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

Jury panels are microcosms of American politics. There's always bound to be at least one or two nuts, fools, agenda-driven zealots or blithering idiots. In the end, however, despite what many amateurs might think, the collective experience of juries in the vast majority of cases result in quite correct outcomes.

As for Blago's case, it's not surprising the prosecution fell a bit short. This is after all Chicago and the defendant was after all a prominent Democrat. Fitz's team actually did a pretty good job. The mistake that Fitz made was moving in too soon on Blago (which might have been by design, given that Obama himself directly might have been implicated if they strung Blago out a bit longer).

It's now common knoweldge that it was 11-1 in favor of full convictions. Retrials favor the prosecution in any event. There's a pretty good chance that Blago will go down next time around (or cop a prosecution-friendly plea in the interim). Lastly, for the shrill and ignorant conservatives who are whining about the cost of all this, try walking a mile in the shoes of a federal prosecutor; you'll be surprised to find out how much you don't know.

1. Why are you equating Chi... (Below threshold)
Rance:

1. Why are you equating Chicago politics with the politics of its suburbs? In any city, the politics of the suburbs do not necessarily reflect the politics of the urban core.

2. How does "Handing out campaign literature for a relative" translate into "highly partisan"? In many of the Chicago suburbs, local offices are non-partisan. In some suburbs, there is a self-appointed committee that interviews candidates, picks a slate, and get them on the ballot where they usually run unopposed. There are also non-partisan races for judges, school boards, etc.

Rance,Are you famili... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Rance,
Are you familiar with the politics of Willowbrook?
Is it also not odd that a former senior state employee was on the jury of the state's governor?

According to Wikipedia, Wil... (Below threshold)
Rance:

According to Wikipedia, Willowbrook has two components. One is an incorporated village in DuPage County. Blagojevich lost the county 132,938 to 101,859 in 2006. The other part of Willowbrook is part of unincorporated Will County. He won there 73,944 to 67,066.

As far as being a former state employee, the key word is "former".

By the way, from what I have read, I think she screwed up. Accounts indicate that she felt a conspiracy charge requires an overt act, like receiving a suitcase full of cash.

So you know jackshit about ... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

So you know jackshit about Willowbrook

Scuz,Which is abou... (Below threshold)
Rance:

Scuz,

Which is about as much as you know about the jurors motivation and ethics.

Rance,You're project... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Rance,
You're projecting, again. I said nothing about her motivations or ethics.

Feel free to show where I did.

Having reviewed you comment... (Below threshold)
Rance:

Having reviewed you comments on this and past posts on the subjects, I retract my jab.

You may just reapply it to some of to other posters above.




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