Jurors Say Judge Was Right to Give Blago 14-Year Prison Sentence

December 7, 2011 - 7:30 PM

Blagojevich Sentencing

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, gives the thumbs-up as he leaves his home with his wife Patti in Chicago, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, for the second day of his sentencing hearing on 18 corruption counts, including trying to auction off President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors who found Rod Blagojevich guilty of federal corruption charges earlier this year did not have to show up to court Wednesday to watch a judge impose the prison sentence they all knew was coming. But they believed they owed him — and themselves — that much.

"When I make a decision that affects somebody's life, I certainly better be able to look him in the face," said Connie Wilson, the jury's forewoman, and one of several jurors who sat in the courtroom for Blagojevich's sentencing hearing.

It was not easy. Not when Blagojevich was talking about how he asked his daughters not to be ashamed of him. And not when he talked about how he understood he had put in "jeopardy" his ability to protect them.

"I feel terrible (for Blagojevich's daughters) especially at this time in their lives," said Amy Laures, an alternate juror. "They're basically going to be growing without their father around."

But for Wilson, Laures and others, what made the day easier to bear were the words that Judge James Zagel told Blagojevich — and them — just before he sentenced Blagojevich to prison for 14 years: That they got it right.

"That was important to us,'" said fellow juror Jessica Hubinek after Zagel looked at Blagojevich and told him that not only had the jury not believed his testimony but that he did not believe it either. "We wanted to know that we had done the right thing."

One after another, jurors said it meant a lot to them that someone who knows far more about the law, has watched far more trials and heard from countless witnesses, that when he believed what they believed and didn't believe what they didn't believe.

Wilson said, for example, that in deliberations jurors were struck by and talked about the fact that Blagojevich did not solicit legal opinions when he was talking about schemes like shaking down a children's hospital and trying to auction off President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.

So she was heartened, she said, when Zagel said the same thing.

"We don't have that legal background," she said. "It's nice to know that people who have that legal background reached the same decisions."