Potential juror conflict: Blagojevich trial or Oprah show tickets?
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND LARK TURNER Chicago Sun-Times April 25, 2011 2:26PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
And Oprah wins – at least for now.
A potential juror questioned during the second day of jury selection in Rod Blagojevich’s retrial Monday said she didn’t want her possible jury service to interfere with the taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, which she planned to attend on May 10.
She might just get her wish.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he could reschedule the trial of Illinois’ former governor to accommodate the talk show goddess but: “That seems a little over the top.”
“It’s the last year, judge,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said, smiling, and referring to the final season the show is taping.
Zagel asked the woman if she had one ticket to attend the taping of the show, which will be in its final month of taping in May.
“Four tickets,” she said.
Zagel later seemed open to a defense lawyer’s suggestion that court be scheduled that day around the taping of the show. The parties agreed to revisit the issue.
“Everybody here knows that this juror will survive” if she doesn’t make it to the show, Zagel said.
All general and studio seating tickets are booked for the remainder of the tapings, a Harpo Studios spokeswoman told the Sun-Times. The last airing is May 25 but the show hasn’t disclosed the final taping date.
The potential juror, who is Hispanic, is a onetime domestic violence counselor at Mujeres Latinas En Accion, a mother and a current member of AFSCME Local 106.
The woman said she did see some news coverage of the trial but: “media usually repeats the same information which I feel is not enough to reach a decision.”
Others who were excused from jury service included a man who had finally gotten a job after 16 months of unemployment.
“I’m supposed to start a new job today. I’ve been unemployed for 16 months. I have documentation that I’m starting today, or supposed to start today,” the former Exxon Mobil employee told the judge from the jury box — and not from his new job.
Both sides agreed to excuse the man from service. Other potential jurors were excused because of economic hardship. After two days of questioning, the number of “qualified jurors,” was up to 25. They are ones who were not dismissed for “cause” such as economic hardship. The parties are trying to get 40 qualified jurors and then each side can use strikes until a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates are seated.
Also on Monday, prosecutors indicated they wanted to play a recording of Rod Blagojevich — and not from the secret FBI tapes. Prosecutors asked in a court filing to play a recording from MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” in court. In the Jan. 27, 2009 interview with Blagojevich, Maddow asks him if he agrees it would be “wrong” and “criminal” to exchange the Senate seat for something of value; he responds that it “absolutely” would be.
In last summer’s trial, defense lawyers argued that if anything illegal was going on, the defendants weren’t aware of it. The move may be a follow-up to an April 18 hearing, when prosecutors said they were frustrated because Blagojevich might not take the stand in the retrial, while he continues to make public comments about his case.