Thank the jury in the Blagojevich brothers' trial for their service and 14 days of deliberations. Then, let them alone. Think of the Beatles' song, Let It Be . The jury has spoken.
It is difficult enough getting people to do their jury duty. Especially for the lousy pay rate of $40 per day. A lot of self-employed folks end up getting excused for financial hardship reasons. No juror wants to be badgered by the press and public when they are done. Badgering jurors only encourages Americans to avoid jury duty. Is this what we want?
Jury deliberations are like making sausage or legislation. You really don't want to know what goes on, even though you really, really think you do. No, you don't! You really don't. Even though you think you do.
Anyone who was fortunate enough to get one of the ridiculously few dozen seats available to the public during the trial witnessed how thin the case against the brothers was as presented inside the courtroom, the only place where it counts. Truth be told, reporters in the corridors were privately saying to each other throughout the trial that it would probably be a hung jury. Remember the standard of proof for this criminal trial was the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Not the civil trial standard of "preponderance of the evidence" as you see on all those small claims court shows on TV.
The prosecution and defense teams, the only ones who can truly benefit from inside knowledge of those deliberations, have already made their next legal moves without benefit of inside the jury room info. On the afternoon the verdict was read in open court, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald let it be known that the prosecution would retry the brothers on the 27 counts that the jury agreed to disagree on. Meanwhile, Rod Blagojevich's attorney said he would appeal his sole conviction of lying to the FBI in a bid to avoid prison time for his client and a felon label, which could affect his law license and ability to practice his profession even when he gets out of prison.
The jurors left the courtroom after the verdict was read without comment to the press. The jury should keep it that way. They are not required to explain. Nor should they feel pressured to discuss it. Jurors should not have to fear being made to publicly defend their deliberations.
Just as Americans vote by secret ballot in political elections and are never required to disclose their picks, so too are jurors permitted and entitled to the secrecy of their votes and deliberations. Judge James Zagel can not order them to speak. It is up to each individual juror if he or she wants to pierce the secrecy of the jury room. It is not up to us, the press and public. If one talks, it affects not only that one juror and his or her family, but the other eleven and their families as well.
Piercing the secrecy of the jury room, encourages the intimidation of future jurors, meaning that if any future jury doesn't vote the way the public seems to be leaning, the jury may feel that it will face public scorn and harassment once it leaves its legal cocoon and steps back into the glare of society. That's not right. It is also a crime to harass jurors.
There is much about the legal system that the public has a right to know. What goes on inside the jury room is not included in that right to know. During the trial, Judge Zagel refused to release the jurors' names to the press, citing his own receipt of emails harassing and pressuring him. He wanted to protect the jury from that kind of thing.
The word "golden" was thrown around a lot in this trial, as in the opportunity to appoint a US Senator to replace President Obama being "golden." However, what is truly golden in the instance of these six men and six women sitting in the Blagojevich jury box is silence. Silence is golden. Let's keep it that way.