Friday, May 20, 2011

This version of Blagojevich – the Trial seems so repetitive. Will it end soon?

BLAGOJEVICH: The sequel speeds along
I haven’t paid daily attention to the courthouse ramblings of recent weeks that comprise the U.S. government’s criminal case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. So I can’t tell you just how buried in legal dog-doo he truly is.

In fact, every time I have tried to hone in on what happened in court on any given day, it seems like it is the same story every day.

ATTORNEYS FOR BLAGOJEVICH were thwarted yet again by U.S. District Judge James Zagel in their attempt to question witnesses for the federal government, or were somehow prevented from bringing up points that might make their client look somewhat favorable.

The image that sticks in my mind thus far about this trial is the sight of our former first lady, Patti Blagojevich, on the verge of tears after a particularly harsh day of Zagel-imposed restrictions in court.

“A deliberate attempt to hide the truth,” was how Patti popped off that particular day while trying to control her rage.

Now I don’t doubt she was sincere in feeling that way. In fact, such a complaint is heard all too often in courthouses – regardless of what the case is.

JUST THE OTHER day, I was at a courthouse where I listened to the uncle of a man found guilty and awaiting sentencing tell me how “the truth didn’t come out” during his nephew’s trial.

It all comes down to how narrow a view of any story a judge decides he wants a jury exposed to. Because in restricting information from being expressed in courtrooms, a judge is supposed to be ensuring that they are not given information that would confuse them.

The criminal case itself is usually confusing enough. Why let irrelevant points get involved?

The problem becomes if a judge decides to get so heavy-handed that he limits information too much. Which is the point that Blagojevich’s attorneys want to make now, and likely will argue in the very possible scenario by which they have to appeal a Milorod conviction to a Court of Appeals.

SO IN THE same way that I don’t know the blow-by-blow details of what happened to Blagojevich in court, I can’t say definitively if Zagel is going “over the top” in his attempt to restrict irrelevant testimony OR if Blagojevich’s  attorneys REALLY ARE going way too far in their attempts to put on a defense-before-the-defense and need to have Zagel use the legal equivalent of a sledge hammer to keep things in order.

The one thing I do know is that Zagel is fortunate in that Blagojevich’s general image among political people is fairly low. Very few people are going to be offended by the thought of Milorod getting smacked about.

Even if you could get them to agree that Blagojevich should have been allowed to make some of his points, they probably think he deserves to be cheated.

Which is a shame. Because the whole point of our legal system is that even the incredibly scummy are entitled to the right to defend themselves in full.

THIS PORTION OF the trial is now at an end. Prosecutors finished putting on their case against Blagojevich on Thursday – following three weeks worth of testimony. Which is much quicker than the nearly two months of testimony that took place during the former governor’s first criminal trial – the one that resulted in one lone “guilty” verdict on a minor criminal charge.

Prosecutors seem to think that by paring down their legal arguments, they will make it easier for a jury to decide to vote to convict on the 20 criminal charges Blagojevich now faces.

As opposed to what seems to be the usual legal strategy by which prosecutors throw out so much technical evidence that a jury votes to convict out of the belief that the accused must have done something wrong.

So now, the emphasis of Blagojevich, the Sequel will be on Blagojevich himself. Although there will be some hearings on Friday, the former governor’s attorneys are expected to begin their “defense” when the trial resumes on Monday.

UNLIKE THE FIRST trial, observers seem to think that Blagojevich will have to put up something resembling a defense. Perhaps he even will take the witness stand on his own behalf.

Zagel has repeatedly said that for defense attorneys to make the legal points they tried to do during the prosecution’s case, they need to do it during their portion of the trial.

So are we now going to get the sight in coming days of attorneys meticulously knocking down the prosecution’s case? Point-by-point, will it all come tumbling down?

Or is it very possible that the next few days are going to be filled with objection after objection from the prosecution – doing their best to thwart people from being able to testify in any way that resembles support for Rod Blagojevich.

THIS COMMENTARY SHOULDN’T come across as too much of a bashing of prosecutors. I fully comprehend that they’re in this to make their case and try to win. They’re going to be aggressive, believing that they’re serving the public interest.

It’s just that I fully realize this “issue” of improperly restricting Blagojevich’s defense is one that we’re going to re-hash for years to come. We’re watching right now the activities that will be the basis of the legal appeals-to-come.


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