In reading this story about Blagojevich getting a hung jury on all but one charge, this bit leapt out at me:
But one juror, a woman whom other jurors declined to identify, saying they wanted to respect her privacy, never budged in her opposition to convicting on the counts. She was unmoved by recorded calls in which Mr. Blagojevich and his aides spoke of possible jobs, donations, even a White House cabinet appointment he might get after making his Senate choice.
Mr. Wlodek described her stance as “very noble,” adding: “She did not see it as a violation of any laws. It was politics. It was more of conversations of what-ifs.”[emp added]
This makes me wonder if Blagojevich got off owing to the political culture of Illinois which assumes that a high level of corruption is simply how politics and government get done. With such a culture, it might seem unjust for a juror to convict Blagojevich for actions which are expected of all politicians. I mean, who expects that elected officials will have long conversations about “what-ifs” that at least sound a lot like discussions about corruption?
The arcane complexity of the legal charges is definitely a problem. It’s very much like the trouble that lay juries have in evaluating cases concerning complex and technical financial, technological or scientific evidence. We expect people to get an advanced specialized education and then get years of experience before making major decisions in technical fields, and yet we expect lay juries to choose between two dueling experts based on just a few days of exposure to the issues at hand.
However, corruption would seem to be fairly straightforward in most cases and wouldn’t require a lot of legal hair-splitting. Was the complexity of this case really the challenge here, or was it really a matter of a culture so broadly tolerant of corruption that only the most extreme and explicit acts of corruptions will draw legal censure? Was the complexity of the judge’s instructions itself a result of this culture?
Perhaps some readers from Illinois can pitch in with insight.