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

Judge to Sam Adam Jr: I will sit you down if you bring up missing witnesses -- but here's how you can get away with it

Reporting with Natasha Korecki, Dave McKinney and Abdon Pallasch

Judge James Zagel essentially just explained to Sam Adam Jr. how to cross the line and get away with bringing up "missing witnesses" in his closing argument.

Zagel tells Adam that if he steps over the line in his closing argument, the judge will sit him down in the middle of his remarks. So, Zagel suggests, if Adam wants to step over this line, he should reorganize his argument and put that part at the end -- so the judge can sit him down when it's about to be over.

At that, Sam Adam Jr. stops and looks around the courtroom, slowly scanning as if in amazement. The judge calls a 10-minute recess to give Adam time to rework his argument.

Before the unusual dialogue, Zagel ruled against the defense's bid to reconsider its request to tell jurors that the government didn't call a list of key witnesses. The defense would argue, then, that jurors should assume the witnesses would have helped Rod Blagojevich -- or at the very least, hurt the government.

Zagel also tackled Adam's public statement yesterday that he'd go to jail before going along with the judge's ruling.

"I got the transcript," the judge said. "I didn't use the word jail, you used the word jail. But to put you at ease, Mr. Adam, jail is not in the picture and never was in the picture. I don't know where they lock up lawyers for making objection statements, but we don't do it here."

"So if you were wondering who you were going to give your watch to, you don't have to worry about that," he said.

The judge then called out the defense on waiting until the last minute to bring up the issue -- noting that he ruled on the issue days ago -- and questioned whether it was all a show.

He told the defense team they had the same power to call the "missing witnesses" that the government did. But the defense never invoked that right, Zagel said.

"I don't believe that there was ever, in this case, a desire by the defense to actually have these witnesses here, on the fear that some of what they had to say would be favorable to the government," Zagel said.

"You'd rather have a witness not appear and then tax the government with their non-appearance," he continued. "But the government can't be blamed for their non-appearance."

"That's the status that I explained very clearly on Friday, yet you wait until the moment before closing arguments to start to make a big fuss over this," the judge said.

After his clash yesterday, Sam Adam Jr. did little of the talking with the judge. Attorneys Aaron Goldstein and Shelly Sorosky stepped in at times.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Sarah Ostman published on July 27, 2010 9:13 AM.

Blagojevich trial: Crowd awaits the Zagel-Adam showdown was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich trial: Sam Adam Jr. quietly prepares for closing argument is the next entry in this blog.

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