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CHICAGO — Jurors deliberating in the corruption trial of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told a judge today that they have reached a verdict on 18 of the 20 counts against him, and attorneys in the case have agreed that the verdict should be read.
Judge James Zagel said that will happen this afternoon.The jury had returned to the federal courthouse in Chicago today after nine days of deliberations. They had been talking over the evidence in the case over a three-week period.Blagojevich, 54, has denied all wrongdoing, including allegations that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat and schemed to shake down executives for campaign donations.The ousted governor faced 20 charges. Blagojevich took the stand at the retrial and denied all the charges.Jurors at the first trial came back deadlocked after deliberating for 14 days. They agreed on just one of 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.Despite that, hung juries are rare. According to one federal study, using data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, just 2.5 percent of federal trials from 1980 to 1997 ended hung — a lower rate than for juries in state courts.When jurors do deadlock, it is often at trials where the charges are complex and where the evidence appears ambiguous, a 2002 federally funded study by The National Center for State Courts found."You have both in the Blagojevich case — complexity and evidence that's not straightforward," said Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago defense attorney who tries cases in federal court.Prosecutors almost certainly factored that in going into the retrial. They streamlined the case by dropping racketeering counts against the ex-governor and dismissing all charges against his then co-defendant brother, Robert Blagojevich.And at the retrial, they presented just three weeks of evidence — half the time taken at the first trial. They called fewer witnesses, asked fewer questions and played shorter excerpts of FBI wiretaps that underpin most of the charges.There was also a new variable at the retrial: Testimony from Blagojevich himself. At the first trial, the defense rested without calling any witnesses and Blagojevich didn't testify despite vowing that he would.But retrial jurors saw a deferential Blagojevich look them in the eyes and deny each and every allegation, telling them his talk on the recordings was mere brainstorming. This time, jurors must decide if they believe him.