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Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 10:09am

Jurors Reach Verdict On 2 Counts In Blagojevich Case

Jurors in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial told a judge Thursday they have reached agreement on two counts but have been unable to reach agreement on some counts and have not even discussed many others.

The news came on the 12th day of deliberations. Judge James B. Zagel said he would tell the jurors to go back to deliberating the other 22 counts, including 11 counts of wire fraud that jurors said they had not yet discussed.

Wednesday, jurors sent a note to Zagel saying they have made "a reasonable attempt" to reach a unanimous decision and did so without rancor, but they asked for guidance if they can't reach a unanimous decision on any given count.

Zagel, who read the note aloud in the Chicago courtroom, said he would send a note back to jurors asking them to be clearer about what they meant so that he could advise them.

The note asked: "If we are in a situation where we can't agree or reach a unanimous decision on counts associated with specific acts, what should the next step be?"

Zagel said jurors should try to determine whether they could reach a verdict because he wasn't clear exactly where they were in their deliberations. He also told them they can return a verdict with a unanimous decision on some counts and let the court know if there's an inability to do so on other counts.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Obama's vacated Senate seat. 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, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.

Michael Ettinger, the attorney for Robert Blagojevich, said neither the judge nor attorneys in court understood exactly what the note meant. "We don't know what it means. The judge doesn't know what it means," Ettinger said.

Ettinger said he doesn't believe the jury is confused about the law or about the jury instructions. He believes it's hung, he said.

"A hung jury is better than a conviction," he said.

Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam 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.

At the trial, prosecutors relied heavily on wiretap tapes in which Blagojevich spewed profanity and speculated about getting a Cabinet job in exchange for the Senate seat. Defense attorneys argued that Blagojevich was a big talker but never committed a crime.

Not much is known about the jurors, because Zagel prohibited the release of their names until after the verdict. There are a math teacher, a retired public health official, a former Marine injured serving in the Middle East, a Navy veteran, an avid marathon runner and a man born in a U.S. internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Since they began deliberations, jurors had sent only two notes to the judge. The last was sent on their third day of deliberations.

That's made it hard to glean how discussions were going.

Jurors have worked every weekday but taken weekends off.

With reporting from NPR's Cheryl Corley and The Associated Press [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]

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