Betting on Blago Jury Soothes Summertime Blues

Article excerpt

During this lull between college basketball and fall football weekends, Rod Blagojevich is once again performing a valuable public service.

The precise time that a federal jury will return its verdict on Blagojevich is the subject of widespread speculation, consternation and conjecture -- and more than a few friendly wagers and office betting pools.

Otherwise law-abiding civilians across the Chicago area are soothing the summertime doldrums by purchasing time slots for exactly when they believe the jury will come back. Closest one to the correct day and time without going over takes the pot.

Of course, all gambling in Illinois is unsanctioned and illegal -- except the gambling that Illinois has sanctioned and legalized, but the bureaucrats call that gaming. Besides, even the Illinois casinos and OTB joints aren't taking bets on Blago.

So wagering on when the jury will have a verdict on the ex-governor is being done the all-American way. No bookmakers, parlay cards or enforcers with 19-inch necks. Just a guy in the next cubicle with a piece of paper collecting a buck or two and writing down the predicted times. Some people have already lost in the Blago derby. Those were the bettors who believed his fate would be decided almost instantaneously by the jury. They thought that jurors would take a vote even before sitting down in the backroom and report back within a few minutes.

Anything is possible in court -- as we have seen in this crazy case -- but a lightning verdict after five weeks of testimony, evidence and arguments wasn't going to happen.

Jurors, who give up a chunk of their lives in the summer or any other time, usually take their roles seriously. After listening to other people talk for hours at a time and day after day, they want some time for themselves to sort things out. After all, in our system, they determine the outcome.

What happens in real courtrooms, especially in federal court, has little resemblance to what appears in TV or movie courtrooms. Despite some curious theatrics and a few surprises, the Blagojevich case proceeded like any other. Heck, by Illinois standards, it really wasn't even unusual to have an ex-governor on trial.

Judge Zagel's instructions to jurors were lengthy, describing exactly how they are to apply the law to the evidence in the case. There are a couple dozen charges against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, and the racketeering counts are complicated by decisions the jury must make on individual acts. …