CHICAGO — Jurors who convicted Rod Blagojevich of corruption Monday said it wasn't that they disliked the former Illinois governor. They just didn't believe him.
After issuing their verdict, members of the panel took questions from reporters in a spare courtroom. The 11 women and one man identified themselves only by their juror numbers. The judge had ordered their names not to be made public until Tuesday.
They recalled the trial's most startling moment: when prosecutor Reid Schar posed a confrontational first question for the former governor. "Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?"
"That scared us all to death," said Juror No. 103, a woman who works as a restaurant bartender. "We were so nervous after that. ... The trial up until then had not been very dramatic."
The panel convicted the 54-year-old Blagojevich on 17 of 20 corruption charges after nine days of deliberations.
The forewoman, Juror No. 146, a retired director of music and liturgy at a church, said the group knew "that there's a lot of bargaining that goes on behind the scenes. We do that in our everyday lives ... But I think in this instance, when it's someone representing the people, it crosses the line."
"I think it sends a message," she said.
The deliberations appeared to unfold without much friction, and the relaxed jurors even laughed as they recounted the process by which they decided the case.
It was a vastly different scene than last year's trial, when jurors struggled for 14 days, only to be deadlocked on all but one charge. Afterwards, they described acrimonious exchanges when some of them tried to persuade a lone holdout to switch her vote to guilty.
Back then, the exhausted jurors left the courthouse without speaking to reporters and complained to the judge afterward about reporters approaching them at home. Some said they felt like they were the ones on trial.
This time, jurors said the clearest evidence related to allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell President Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Jury members said they listened and re-listened to FBI wiretap recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides as he discussed ways to ask for a Cabinet post or government job in exchange for appointing Obama's preferred candidate to the Senate.
"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140, a woman who is a grade-school teacher.
Members of the jury acknowledged that it was difficult to convict the chatty Blagojevich, who they said they found likable.
"He was personable," the bartender added. "It made it hard to separate that from what we actually had to do as jurors."
But the teacher said she found Blagojevich's testimony over seven days at times "manipulative."
"Our verdict shows that we didn't believe it," she said.
The group – which also included a librarian, a dietitian and a Navy veteran – appeared to get along well, laughing easily together. Several alternates greeted each other with warm hugs in the courtroom earlier in the day. Several alternates sat in on the news conference but didn't take questions.
Juror No. 149, a mother of three, said she struggled with wanting to acquit Blagojevich, who has two young daughters.
"I had really tried to find everything I could to find him not guilty, but the evidence was there," she said.
Prosecutors streamlined their case for the retrial after jurors in the first trial complained it was hard to follow. The effort seemed to pay off. The second jury said they found the evidence easy to track.
Jurors said they hope their verdict puts public officials on notice not to take the people's trust lightly.
And the forewoman joked that she issued a warning to her husband in case he ever considers a career in politics: He'd probably have to find a new wife.