CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors who convicted Rod Blagojevich of corruption Monday said it wasn't that they didn't like the ousted Illinois governor — they just didn't believe him.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, one of the jury's 11 women said she found the chatty Blagojevich personable, while another called parts of his seven days of testimony manipulative. Overall, they said they ultimately set aside their personal impressions, sticking to what they considered clear evidence that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's Senate seat.
The jurors, who voted to convict the 54-year-old Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts after deliberating for nine days, spoke with reporters afterward but identified themselves only by their juror numbers.
"I think it sends a message," said the forewoman, Juror No. 146, who is a retired director of music and liturgy at a church. "We know that there's a lot of bargaining that goes on behind the scenes, we do that in our everyday lives... but I think in this instance, when it's someone representing the people, it crosses the line."
Of the 20 charges and five alleged schemes Blagojevich was charged with, jurors said the evidence relating to the Senate seat was most clear.
"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140, a woman who is a grade-school teacher. Jurors said they listened and re-listened to FBI wiretap recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides as he discussed ways to ask for a Cabinet post or government job in exchange for naming Obama's preferred candidate for the Senate.
All 12 jurors — the 11 women and one man — met with the media in a spare courtroom. They appeared to get along well, laughing easily, and several alternates greeted each other with warm hugs in the courtroom earlier in the day. Several alternates also sat in on the news conference but didn't take questions. The full names of the jurors, including a librarian, dietitian and Navy veteran, will be released Tuesday.
Jurors said they feel confident they reached a fair verdict and acknowledged that it was difficult to convict Blagojevich, who they said they found likable.
"He was personable," said Juror 103, a woman who is a restaurant bartender. "It made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors."
Still, Juror 140 said she found Blagojevich's testimony over seven days at times "manipulative."
"Our verdict shows that we didn't believe it," she said.
Juror 149, a mother of three, said she struggled with wanting to find Blagojevich, who has two young daughters, innocent.
"I had really tried to find everything I could to find him not guilty, but the evidence was there," she said.
Prosecutors streamlined their case against Blagojevich for the retrial after jurors in the first trial last year complained the case was hard to follow. The strategy seems to have worked, as jurors this time said they found the case and the evidence easy to track. The first trial's jurors were hung on all but one count, that Blagojevich lied to the FBI.
Jurors said prosecutor Reid Schar's confrontational first question for Blagojevich on cross-examination — "Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?" — startled them.
"That scared us all to death," the restaurant bartender said, to laughs from the group. "We were so nervous after that. ... The trial up until then had not been very dramatic."
Jurors said their deliberations were respectful and productive, and in a statement read by the forewoman, they said they felt "privileged to be part of our federal judicial system."
The forewoman called the jury "an amazing group of people."
"They did such due diligence," she said. "They were so wanting to keep innocent until proven guilty."
Jurors said they hope their verdict puts public officials on notice not to take the people's trust lightly. And the forewoman joked that she told her husband that if he's considering a career in politics, he'd probably have to find a new wife.
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