CHICAGO (AP) _ After more than a week of silence, jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich threw the courtroom into confusion Wednesday when they sent a note to the judge suggesting they may be deadlocked on at least some counts.
In their 11th day of deliberations, the jurors told Judge James B. Zagel that they had made “a reasonable attempt” to reach a unanimous decision, but asked for guidance if they can’t reach a unanimous decision on any given count.
Zagel, who read their note aloud in court, said he would send a reply asking jurors to be clearer about what they meant so that he could advise them. He said he would tell them it was OK to agree on some counts but not others.
Michael Ettinger, the attorney for Rod Blagojevich’s brother, co-defendant Robert Blagojevich, said neither the judge nor attorneys in court understood exactly what the note was saying.
“We don’t know what it means. The judge doesn’t know what it means,” Ettinger said. He said the jurors had gone home for the day, and the judge would have another hearing at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Ettinger conceded that trying to glean just what the jury meant was guesswork _ but he believes they’re hung, he said.
“A hung jury is better than a conviction,” he said.
Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Sr. said he couldn’t comment because Zagel told attorneys not to discuss the case. The former governor, who had been summoned to court to hear the note read, left the courthouse without commenting.
Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said it’s likely that jurors have reached a verdict on at least some counts.
“If they hadn’t reached a verdict on anything I would have expected some language saying that,” he said.
Since the jury began deliberations, they’ve sent two previous notes to the judge. Blagojevich and his brother haven’t been asked to attend court when previous notes were read. But they were asked to show up Wednesday because of the potential importance of this note.
The 53-year-old Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.
His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.