Entries in Court (2)


Blagojevich Trial: Jurors Reach Verdict, Announcement Coming Monday

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- A federal jury in Chicago has reached an undisclosed verdict in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of corruption and trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Obama was elected in 2008.

The jurors reportedly told the judge Monday morning they have agreed on 18 of 20 counts.

The verdict is expected to be announced Monday afternoon.

This is the second trial for the Democrat. A previous trial ended with a jury hung on all but one charge, although he has maintained his innocence. But federal prosecutors elected to bring the case again.

The jury in the new trial -- eleven women and one man -- reached its decision after nearly 10 days of deliberation. Federal prosecutors streamlined their presentation after the first jury complained of an overly complex case. Last year's result was a hung jury on 23 of the original 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.

This time, the colorful ex-governor took a huge gamble by testifying in his own defense. Legal analysts called it "a hail Mary pass." Even the judge, James Zagel, told Blagojevich in court that it was probably his best chance to beat the rap.

For seven days, Blagojevich took the stand in an attempt to counter hundreds of FBI wiretaps that, prosecutors argued, demonstrated his maneuvering to peddle the vacated Senate seat of the newly elected Barack Obama. In perhaps the most infamous recording, the then governor is heard saying, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."

Jurors also heard recordings that, prosecutors said, showed Blagojevich scheming to sell the Senate seat to allies of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for more than $1 million in campaign contributions. Jackson has insisted he had no knowledge of any "unauthorized" efforts on his behalf.

On the stand, Blagojevich argued he was merely engaged in speculative political horse-trading. His lawyers contended the FBI tapes amounted to nothing but bluster. "He talked and talked and that's all he did," lead defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said.

But federal prosecutors compared Blagojevich to a cop asking a stopped motorist for a bribe. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told the jury: "The law focuses on 'the ask,' not on whether there was a receipt. The harm is done when 'the ask' is made."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judicial Setback for Obama: Liu Nomination Blocked by Senate GOP

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of California-Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, the first time one of President Obama's judicial nominees has been defeated.

Liu needed 60 votes to break through the GOP filibuster and advance to a final up-or-down vote, but he only got 52 votes, with 43 votes against. 

The vote was largely along party lines, with only a few exceptions: Nebraska's Ben Nelson split with his fellow Democrats to vote against Liu, while Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski voted for Liu.

Utah Republican Orrin Hatch voted present, while four senators did not vote at all: David Vitter, R-Louisiana; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; and Max Baucus, D-Montana.

In the build-up to the vote, Republican leaders had called on their party to close ranks in opposition to Liu. They argued that his record on divisive social issues showed that his judicial thinking was outside the mainstream.

Years ago a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of 14 agreed that judicial nominees should only be blocked in the event of "extraordinary circumstances," but Republicans argued that Liu's nomination fell into that category.

"The extraordinary circumstances are clear -- he's never tried a case, he's very inexperienced, very liberal progressive activist lawyer who believes in a vision of the role of a judge that's contrary to the great American heritage that a judge is an independent adjudicator of disputes and is not one that is -- allows their personal political views to be part of their decision making process," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, a top member of the Judiciary Committee, told ABC's Top Line on Tuesday. "He's the most activist nominee I think we've seen by far."

Across the aisle, Liu's supporters claimed the GOP was merely scared that if Liu was confirmed to the Ninth Circuit, then he could eventually be appointed to the Supreme Court, where he would become the first Asian American nominee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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