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Columnist
Betting on Blago jury soothes summertime blues
By Chuck Goudie | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/2/2010 12:00 AM

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During this lull between college basketball and fall football weekends, Rod Blagojevich is once again performing a valuable public service.

The precise time that a federal jury will return its verdict on Blagojevich is the subject of widespread speculation, consternation and conjecture - and more than a few friendly wagers and office betting pools.

Otherwise law-abiding civilians across Chicagoland are soothing the summertime doldrums by purchasing time slots for exactly when they believe the jury will come back. Closest one to the correct day and time without going over takes the pot.

Of course, all gambling in Illinois is unsanctioned and illegal - except the gambling that Illinois has sanctioned and legalized, but the bureaucrats call that gaming. Besides, even the Illinois casinos and OTB joints aren't taking bets on Blago.

So wagering on when the jury will have a verdict on the ex-governor is being done the all-American way. No bookmakers, parlay cards or enforcers with 19-inch necks. Just a guy in the next cubicle with a piece of paper collecting a buck or two and writing down the predicted times.

Some people have already lost in the Blago derby. Those were the bettors who believed his fate would be decided almost instantaneously by the jury. They thought that jurors would take a vote even before sitting down in the backroom and report back within a few minutes.

Anything is possible in court - as we have seen in this crazy case - but a lightning verdict after five weeks of testimony, evidence and arguments wasn't going to happen.

Jurors, who give up a chunk of their lives in the summer or any other time, usually take their roles seriously. After listening to other people talk for hours at a time and day after day, they want some time for themselves to sort things out. After all, in our system, they determine the outcome.

What happens in real courtrooms, especially in federal court, has little resemblance to what appears in TV or movie courtrooms. Despite some curious theatrics and a few surprises, the Blagojevich case proceeded like any other. Heck, by Illinois standards, it really wasn't even unusual to have an ex-governor on trial.

Judge Zagel's instructions to jurors were lengthy, describing exactly how they are to apply the law to the evidence in the case. There are a couple dozen charges against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, and the racketeering counts are complicated by decisions the jury must make on individual acts.

Considering the numerous government witnesses and undercover tapes that were presented against the Blagojevich brothers and the seriousness of the charges, most of us familiar with such public corruption cases did not think the verdict would be in by now.

My money is on late Thursday or Friday at the earliest. That would account for about one full day of jury deliberation for every week the trial was under way, which is the formula used in legal circles.

Conventional legal wisdom throws in an extra day or two of deliberation when there are tapes and transcripts for jurors to consider. Last Friday, the Blago jury asked for transcripts of ALL witness testimony. The request was denied because that testimony hasn't even been transcribed yet, but Judge Zagel offered up certain portions if the jury wanted them.

All of this is a guess. The jury could come back today, refreshed from a weekend away and ready to get it over.

Although Blagojevich is known to have enjoyed some bet-making and bet-taking over the years, I doubt whether he and his snappy attorneys have a defense pool going. Betting on when your own jury will come back is probably bad luck ... especially when you make the kind of proclamation we heard from Blagojevich.

"It's in God's hands," said the former governor shortly after the jury began deliberating. That statement certainly surprised me because usually God intervenes only when Notre Dame needs a field goal. But with an anonymous jury, who knows? Maybe Blagojevich actually believes his jury is the Second Coming.

The jury is definitely not composed of Rod Blagojevich's peers. The jurors are - or were - working people. As we know from the testimony, when Blagojevich was governor, he rarely did any work or even went into the office. Thankfully, having a jury of your peers isn't required by - or even mentioned in - the Constitution anyway as most people believe.

By this time next week, I'll bet that Blagojevich's fate has been determined and announced.

After considering the evidence, I assure you of this: Whether the jury finds Rod Blagojevich guilty or not guilty, he will never be innocent.

That I would bet on.

Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at chuckgoudie@gmail.com and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie