Friday, August 20, 2010
I wasn't really surprised when I heard about most of Blago's charges being declared a mistrial. They had a hung jury - one juror wouldn't budge. I won't criticize the juror, but would like to make a few observations.
From what I have been reading, the prosecutors completely botched this thing - good thing they will get a second whack at it. First hand accounts say that the jurors were totally perplexed when they entered the deliberations room and had to sort out a ton of stuff on their own. They had over twenty charges to consider, and all the evidence that goes with each charge. Charges like racketeering and selling Senate seats are complex - did he mean what he said? Is what he said an actual violation of the law or was he blowing smoke?
The prosecution should have taken a couple charges, their best ones, and run with those and made it as simple as humanly possible for the jury to understand.
Next up, we have the one holdout on the jury. When I heard that, my mind raced. Was the prosecution bribed/extorted to run a bad case? Was the juror threatened by the mob or bribed? This is the Chicago way, after all, and nothing would surprise me.
Shannon Love makes an interesting point. His theory is that that one juror (or many) were just so used to the day to day corruption in Chicago that they could have taken Blago's criminality to be just day to day business in the big city. It is a valid point. I will give you a personal story to illustrate this.
I grew up in Rockford in the 70's and 80's. I wasn't really exposed to much of the daily strife and corruption that rules in Chicago. Not that Rockford is pristine, but just not Chicago-like. When I was in my 20s I visited a friend who had a business in Chicago and they had a tiny manufacturing facility. A man walked in and my friend handed the man an envelope and the guy gave my friend a piece of paper and then he left. I asked my friend who was the guy and what was going on there. I was informed that he was the elevator inspector and that was his money for re-certifying their elevator for another year. I said "you mean the fee?" My friend laughed and said "no silly, his piece of the action - our elevator hasn't been able to be certified for a decade now due to age and we don't want to replace it". It was my first exposure to an outright bribe and I was flabbergasted and extremely upset for some reason.
To this day I get extremely upset as I play by the rules and don't like it at all when I find out someone has one-upped me by means of bribes in any form - obviously I am not a candidate to run a business in Chicago.
But back to Shannon's point. If you are used to dealing with a climate of bribing inspectors, the mob for protection, or whatever you need to get done, you wouldn't look at what Blago was doing as anything more than the daily grind - nothing different than me putting on the coffee in the morning.
If that jury was from Chicago and they dealt with this stuff all the time, I could see how their interpretation of the law would be vastly different than my interpretation, or what someone from, say, Danville or Carbondale or DeKalb would think.