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Blago judge wants to keep jurors anonymous, delay naming them
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/8/2010 7:45 AM | Updated: 9/8/2010 3:49 PM

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U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel made plain his intent to again keep the jurors' names anonymous in the retrial of Rod Blagojevich at a status hearing Wednesday in Chicago.

Zagel said he also planned to keep the names secret until an additional 24 hours after a final verdict is reached, and cited how some jurors complained about being beset by the media immediately after they failed to reach a verdict on 23 or 24 counts in Blagojevich's original corruption trial this summer.

Facing charges of racketeering, bribery, extortion, conspiracy and wire fraud, the former governor was convicted only of lying to federal agents. No formal announcement has been made, but it appeared as if sentencing on that conviction will wait until after the retrial.

Zagel set a Nov. 1 deadline for outside parties to file motions in the case as it heads toward a tentative retrial date the first week of the new year.

The media argued in court for the release of the jurors' names in this summer's trial, but it came to a close before the matter could be fully decided. An appeals court sided with the release of the names, but Zagel argued that their release, after he had promised the jury otherwise, would have undermined his authority in the proceedings.

Zagel said a new preliminary questionnaire would be going out to a preliminary jury pool later this year. The questionnaire will ask if a trial of 10 or 11 weeks would prove to be a hardship, compared with the 15 to 17 weeks that were forecast in the first case.

When Blagojevich didn't field a defense, that dramatically shortened the trial, and Zagel has said he expects the retrial to go much the same - at least in the presentation of evidence.

The questionnaire will also add questions on whether prospective jurors might have been biased by coverage of the first trial.

The next status hearing was scheduled for Oct. 1, the deadline Zagel has set for attorneys to withdraw from the case. He has indicated that, with Blagojevich's campaign account cleaned out by attorney's fees in the first trial and the former governor pleading economic hardship, he would agree to publicly fund two attorneys, but not the several that sat at Blagojevich's defense table the first time around.

Defense attorneys Sheldon Sorosky and Aaron Goldstein represented Blagojevich at the hearing. The Sam Adams father and son attorney team, like Blagojevich, were not in attendance.