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Foreman: Holdout Blago Juror Said It Was Politics

Aug 18, 2010 – 11:43 AM
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Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel Contributor

(Aug. 18) -- 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."

The jury dropped something of a bombshell Tuesday, convicting Blagojevich on only one of 24 counts -- that he lied to FBI agents in 2005 about keeping politics separate from government. One of the 11-1 votes reportedly involved the sexiest of the charges, that the chatty governor tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Matsumoto's comments came one day after legal experts, the media and the public debated whether the government or Blagojevich had come out ahead.

"There's no doubt they brought 24 charges hoping to get 24 convictions," former District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. told AOL News. "But they have one conviction. If you're the former governor and now you have a felony conviction, that's a bad situation."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters after the verdict that his office was moving quickly to retry the case on the deadlocked counts. Blagojevich has vowed to appeal the conviction on the one count.

The government failed to convict his brother Robert Blagojevich. The jury deadlocked on all four counts against him.

Matsumoto said he would like to see the government retry the case.

"Personally, I saw it as the prosecution did prove its case," he said. "There was a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the evidence, and several people voted not guilty on several counts."

But Matsumoto suggested that the government retool and simplify its case.

"The major flaw was probably the complexity of the case, the amount of information that we had to digest, the length of the judge's instructions to us that we had to learn legal terms, we had to learn the law and how to apply it to the evidence that was given to us either in witness testimony or in wiretap conversations."

Matsumoto suggested the prosecution "streamline the case, concentrate on areas where they have more information and not rely so much on witness testimony, which was sometimes weak, and that's where we split the most.

"The vote could be sometimes five guilty to seven not guilty or it would flip. Sometimes it would be nine to three," he said. "It was all over."
Filed under: Nation, Politics, Crime
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