Blagojevich trial: Jurors will remain anonymous
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[June 04, 2010]
CHICAGO -- Federal Judge James Zagel
ruled on Thursday that the jury in former Illinois Gov. Rod
Blagojevich's corruption trial will remain anonymous, despite a
last-minute petition by a group of news organizations.
The group attempted to reverse Zagel's previous decision to seal the
jurors' identities, but the judge said the objection was "untimely"
with the trial less than two hours away. The trial was pushed back
to 11 a.m.
The group's lawyer, Natalie Spear, argued that
high-profile cases are the time for the judicial system to remain
open for credibility's sake.
"This is a matter of importance for not only the defense and the
(prosecutors), but the judicial process," she said. "Openness is a
hallmark of the judicial system."
But Zagel said there were other matters at hand. Identifying
jurors could subject them to public scrutiny and pressure by members
of the public.
"By communicating directly with decision-makers, (people) would
be bypassing the adversarial system," in which both sides must be
represented, he said.
Robert Hirschhorn, a national expert jury selection, said the
move will hurt Blagojevich.
He said that anonymity gives the jury the "impression that they
might be in danger." It is a move that is usually reserved for Mafia
trials, but Zagel has argued in the past that publicity necessitated
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In an uncommon move for prominent defendants, Blagojevich has
stayed in the public eye, authoring a book and appearing on reality
television since his arrest.
During the trial of now imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan, the
trial was interrupted after the Chicago Tribune revealed two members
of the case's jury had criminal records, which they did not disclose
during the selection process.
The jury's identities will not be released until after a verdict
has been reached. That is expected to happen in three to four
Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]