Why is the second trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich commencing on "Spy Wednesday"? This is not tongue-in-cheek. It's true. "Spy Wednesday" this year falls on April 20th, the start date for the federal government's second chance to throw the book at Blagojevich.
How did this happen? Was this date an accidental pick? Or on purpose? Who chose the date? Who knows? Maybe it was just the luck of the draw.
During Holy Week in the Catholic faith, "Spy Wednesday" is traditionally the day before Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, the day of commemoration of the Last Supper and when Jesus washed the Apostles' feet.
In contrast with the Last Supper, "Spy Wednesday" is not exactly a holy day. It is a day that is notorious. It's the day when Apostle Judas Iscariot offered to turn Jesus over to the Chief Priests of the Sanhedrin in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. It is a day of betrayal, of loyalty lost, of selling out.
But then again, maybe it is the perfect day to start this do-over. For those who view Blagojevich as an elected official who betrayed the public's trust. A sellout. Versus those who see him as just another Chicago pol engaged in mere horse trading, spied upon by an overzealous federal prosecutor through the surreptitious taping of his phone conversations, the entirety of which have yet to be made public. You'll recall Blago's defense has been that the snippets released so far have been taken out of context, and if Judge James Zagel were to allow the entire conversations to be released, the tapes would exonerate him, not convict him.
Whatever happens, the public won't get to see it. Again. Except for a lucky three dozen or so each day if the courtroom is the same small, crowded one used this summer. Over half the seats go to reporters. What's left, the public gets to scramble for.
Yet with 40-some reporters there, don't think you can see this trial at home or at the office on your laptop, television, cable or satellite. With the plethora of channels out there and the ever expanding means of communication, you would think someone could see this somewhere. Yet video isn't allowed. No, sir. Not in federal courtrooms, thank you. Not even in the overflow courtroom which gets an audio feed but no faces to scrutinize, no expressions to read.
Video and cameras aren't allowed in federal courtrooms. Even though the U.S. Constitution does guarantee all defendants in criminal trials the right to a public trial. If only a handful can get in, is it really a public trial, considering the millions who live in Chicagoland? Especially when the former governor of a state is on trial for corruption charges, shouldn't there be more than three dozen seats available to the public? The public has the right to know. Not just the reporters. Wouldn't televising it solve this problem?
If you want to write to someone to express your opinion about cameras in federal courtrooms including inside the US Supreme Court, address your cards and letters to the Honorable Chief Justice John Roberts at the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Good luck.