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Jury ends first day in Rod Blagojevich trial; judge denies mistrial bid

Rod Blagojevich | AP

Rod Blagojevich | AP

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Updated: August 3, 2011 7:12PM

Rod Blagojevich’s jury finished its first day of deliberations Friday after setting a schedule and picking a foreperson, as the judge in the case denied the defense’s bids for a mistrial.

Defense lawyers in recent days filed two mistrial motions, complaining that U.S. District Judge James Zagel created an unfair atmosphere in the courtroom. Lawyers argued he repeatedly issued “tilted rulings.”

“There appears to be a double standard with regard to the leeway given to the government throughout the case versus the defense,” they wrote.

The defense had said Zagel, among other things, misled them into believing that putting their client on the stand would be a good thing.

“Truth is, you may not like us. You may not like our client. You have formed opinions from the first trial,” defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg told Zagel in the Friday hearing. “The truth of the matter is we didn’t get a fair trial.”

They complained Zagel led them to think that case law would allow Blagojevich to testify about what he thought was legal at the time he was discussing the Senate seat appointment.

Zagel said he told the defense: “He could well save himself by testifying. . . . It was an opinion when I uttered it and it is an opinion that I still have.”

But he said the decision to testify was Blagojevich’s to make.

“He clearly knew it was his best choice,” Zagel said.

Zagel also said he never decided guilt or made findings of fact — that’s up to the jury.

“I’m not interested in doing someone else’s work,” the judge said.

The jury also set a daily schedule for its deliberations, Zagel said, but then didn’t disclose what that schedule would be except to say the jury will end earlier than is typical. They left just before 4 p.m. Friday.

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