Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

Blagojevich trial: Judge Zagel reads jury their 120 instructions

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Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Judge James Zagel is reading the jurors their instructions. There are 120 of them.

Zagel reminds them that a number of witnesses -- including Joe Cari, John Harris, Lon Monk and Ali Ata -- have pleaded guilty to related or unrelated offenses.

"Their guilty pleas are not to be considered as evidence against the defendants," the judge says.

Recordings are to be used as evidence, Zagel tells them -- not transcripts, which were put together by the government to help the jury follow along. Jurors will be given a computer with all the recordings to use in deliberations, he says.

Zagel turns to specific instructions for each of the 24 counts against Rod Blagojevich. For each count, the judge reads a list of specific things the government must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" to warrant a guilty verdict. Much is fairly technical.

He goes through a long list for count 2 -- conspiracy to commit racketeering.

"A conspiracy may be committed even if its purpose is not accomplished," the judge reads steadily, and later, "A group may continue to be an enterprise even if it changes membership by gaining or losing members over time."

Now and then, Zagel lists off a long string of count numbers to which a specific instruction applies.

"From what you've just heard, you understand why we give you written copies of the jury instructions to take with you," he says, acknowledging that there's no way the jurors can be absorbing all this information.

On one bribery count, Zagel defines the term "anything of value." The term can mean "money, property or prospective employment," he says.

The jurors are getting restless. One has her eyes closed; another just yawned.

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Ostman published on July 28, 2010 10:49 AM.

Blagojevich trial: Patti Blagojevich knits as jury is seated for instructions was the previous entry in this blog.

Here are the jury instructions is the next entry in this blog.

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