As jurors in Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial begin a three-day break from deliberations Friday, the former governor, attorneys and other court watchers are left with another agonizing wait to learn whether the panel will resolve its deadlock on some charges, and how quickly.
The wait will be all the more difficult because jurors offered only the slightest hint about their method and progress in 12 days of deliberations.
In a short note to the judge Thursday, jurors said they'd reached a unanimous decision on only two of the 24 felony counts against Blagojevich, who is accused of scheming to turn an appointment of President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat into a job or money for himself and shaking down businessmen and others for campaign contributions.
But they didn't say whether they've found him guilty or not guilty on those two counts, exactly which counts they're talking about or whether they have anything to do with the former governor's co-defendant, his brother, Robert Blagojevich.
Equally intriguing was the revelation that the jurors haven't deliberated on 11 counts of wire fraud, which raised a questions of its own: Why not? Did they just not get to it or did they think that they could not even talk about it because they were deadlocked on 11 other charges?
The note was the first message the court had received from the jury in more than a week.
"Given they've accomplished virtually nothing, you would have thought we'd hear something," said Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor.
The note did spark speculation that some jurors have doubts about the prosecution's case.
"It's a victory for the defense for several reasons," said Douglas Godfrey, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, arguing that the way the government had presented its case was extremely complex. "If the jury hangs on 22, it's a big blow to government."
Michael Helfand, a Chicago defense attorney not involved in the case, agreed there was potentially positive news in the note for Blagojevich.
"The defense has every reason to be thrilled," Helfand said. "This jury has been deliberating for such a long time, the chances of someone changing their mind now aren't good."
None of that is lost on prosecutors, who appeared worried as they huddled after the Thursday morning hearing.
"I would be very depressed about this," said Levin. "The best case maybe is convictions on two counts."
It looked like both Rod and Robert Blagojevich agreed. For hours after the hearing, both appeared relaxed as they sat in the court's cafeteria — opposite ends of the cafeteria for the brothers who are barely speaking to each other — with the former governor even taking part in a trivia game with some reporters.
"I think there's a lot of cautious optimism," said Aaron Goldstein, one of the attorneys for Rod Blagojevich, who did not comment.
Robert Blagojevich's attorney, Michael Ettinger, said he thinks he knows how everything is going to play out.
"I believe it's hung," said Ettinger, a smile on his face as well. "That's what's going to happen."
But hanging over that optimism, of course, is that the jury said it has agreed on two counts, and the possibility they've agreed that one or both of the defendants are guilty. If that's the case, they could still face prison time.
Daniel Coyne, another Kent professor, said given that no one knows what jurors have decided, there is no way to conclude with any certainty that their note is good news for the defense.
"That's a little premature," he said. "It means some more sleepless nights (for the defense). Trying to forecast what a jury is doing is really very treacherous work."
What happens next or when it will happen is anyone's guess. There are, for example, 11 counts the jury has yet to discuss. Those counts involve wire fraud, with most of them dealing with FBI wiretap recordings and the allegation that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade Obama's old Senate seat.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has vehemently denied doing anything improper while deciding who would be awarded the Senate seat. His brother, a Tennessee businessman, faces four counts and has pleaded not guilty.
Which counts jurors have agreed or disagreed on is crucial, especially when it comes to arguably the most serious charge, racketeering.
As they consider the racketeering charge, the indictment requires jurors to decide whether Blagojevich committed more than 20 separate illegal actions, from trying to sell the Senate seat to squeezing a construction executive for campaign cash.
Many other charges, including wire fraud, rely on whether jurors have already agreed Blagojevich committed the long list of actions under racketeering. That makes the racketeering count a kind of legal domino. If jurors convict on it, many other counts should also come in as guilty.
Asked if Thursday's note suggests jurors are bogged down on racketeering, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky agreed.
"Yes, it does seem to," he said.
Associated Press writers Karen Hawkins and Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.
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