Why Rod Blagojevich Didn't Testify at His Corruption Trial

Article excerpt

Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich may not have wanted to risk putting the fiery former Illinois governor on the stand, or they may think they have the case locked up.

Rod Blagojevich and his defense team have promised for months that he would testify at his trial. Put him on the stand and he would finally clear up the charges against him, they said. But that opportunity came and went Wednesday as the former Illinois governor's lawyers rested their case without calling a single witness, including the ex-governor himself.

Mr. Blagojevich is charged with 24 counts of crimes including fraud, extortion, and conspiracy. He allegedly tried to trade the open Illinois US Senate seat vacated by President Obama for political favors and campaign donations in 2008. Blagojevich was impeached and unanimously removed from office by the Illinois state Senate just before the charges were filed in early 2009.

Legal analysts say Blagojevich's surprise move might be a show of confidence from his defense team. Ronald Allen, a law professor at Northwestern University, says there two reasons why defense lawyers will choose not to call their own clients as witnesses.

"One, you think you already won," Mr. Allen says. "Or two, you're not sure if you've won and you don't want to take a chance."

Allen says that in his opinion, the true reason is closer to the second than the first. Blagojevich is infamous for saying the first thing that comes to his mind, which could end up being a problem in a close trial.

"The defense is worried that Blagojevich will get up there and start saying ridiculous things and make matters worse," Allen says.

Ronald Smith, the director of Chicago's John Marshall School of Law, agrees. He says the defense will argue that Blagojevich's testimony is unnecessary to prove his innocence.

"Their final argument will be, 'We would have but him on the stand, but there's no case here,'" Mr. …