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Lawyers in Blagojevich trial appear to be under gag order

Sam Adam Jr.

Sam Adam Jr.

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:32AM

Jurors in Rod Blagojevich’s case went home for the weekend on Thursday, after concluding their ninth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

About half of the jurors were dressed in jeans on Thursday and their demeanor seemed as casual as their dress. On Wednesday, several joked and smiled on their way to their lunch break. They will return at 9 a.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, lawyers involved in Blagojevich’s case appear to be under a gag order.

Since last week — and after the jury began its deliberations — there have been four sealed filings in the case, beginning with a prosecution filing that came one day after a media appearance by a former Blagojevich attorney. Lawyers tied to the trial who usually freely discuss it have since late last week kept their mouths tightly shut.

The filings came after attorney Sam Adam Jr. last week, as jury talks were under way, went on TV and radio predicting “20 not guilty verdicts” for his onetime client. Early last week, two Blagojevich lawyers appeared on “Chicago Tonight.”

On June 16, lawyers were summoned to U.S. District Judge James Zagel’s chambers for a private meeting. Also in the courthouse was Adam, who was not part of the retrial but still a listed attorney on the case. Afterward, the typically talkative Adam would not answer questions about the Blagojevich case. A few times when asked a question, he’d put his hand over his mouth.

“I MUST decline to comment,” Adam repeatedly said. “I cannot tell you why.”

Another defense lawyer, Michael Ettinger, who also still has an appearance on file in the case — and typically answers questions about the trial — responded similarly.

“I cannot comment at this time,” when asked about strategy in the case.

There have been no subsequent media appearances by any of those lawyers.

A U.S. attorney’s spokesman also had no comment on a gag order.

All federal judges have the power to gag parties in a case, and it’s not unusual, said Wayne Giampietro, a First Amendment attorney.

“The judge has got a general obligation to see to it that the trials are done fairly and that the jury is not influenced by things outside the courtroom,” he said.

Last year, during Blagojevich’s first trial, prosecutors asked Zagel to gag Blagojevich after he was commenting on witnesses’ testimony. Zagel declined to do it. In 2006, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a gag order during the trial of former Gov. George Ryan during jury deliberations.

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