The Blagojevich Defense: My observations
Aaron Goldstein took the floor and channeling Sam Adam Jr. at last year’s closing in a booming, almost yelling voice reiterated what he said in the open that this case was “about nothing.” Pacing in front of the jury Goldstein said, “He didn’t get at dime, not a nickel, not a penny…nothing!”
Goldstein told the jury that they (the prosecutors) want to give you a hypothetical – nowhere near reality, so you could stamp it Guilty. Referencing the government’s analogy of a policeman soliciting a la politician has the right to ask for campaign contributions.”
The cop analogy makes no sense, Goldstein told the jury.
Blagojevich’s “walk to the witness stand” took courage Goldstein said and was something he did not have to do.
Goldstein then reminded jurors that most of the witnesses had immunity or plea agreements. He spoke of Lon Monk taking money in a Fed Ex envelope and said, “What made it a gift? Was there a bow on it? Did he report it? No. Did he pay taxes on it? No. The only gift he got was not being prosecuted.”
Again, reminiscent of Sam Adam Jr., Goldstein would change the volume of his voice, speaking right in front of the jury and his voice down to a whisper so quiet those of us seated in the courtroom could barely hear him.
He went on to say that what they heard in testimony and tapes was “a lot of talk- a man thinking out loud. You heard his testimony….that’s him. That’s all you heard. And they want you to believe his talk is a crime. It’s not. He testified 7 days. He gave you nothing. Listen to what he said. There was no criminal intent whatsoever.
Goldstein that went through each of the schemes. And every few minutes there was the refrain “the case is about nothing.”
He disparaged each of the witnesses saying for example that Robert Greenlee “tells you about a call that did not happen whatsoever."Look at the actions. The actions speak louder than words.”
And later, about the senate seat, “Rod talked a lot. He talked and talked and talked. He even overruled my objections.”
Goldstein finished saying “Rod, it’s an honor to represent you.”I’s been a burden to represent you for the last 2 ½ years.
For a case that was about nothing, this defense team struggled. On Monday May 9 the defense began their cross-examination of John Harris. In the first few minutes, 18 objections are sustained by Judge Zagel. Discussing the ethics bill, five more rapid fire objections sustained. With discussion of Madigan, the capital bill and the trouble the Governor had passing legislation, there are many more objections. It is 10:04 a.m. and there are already 43 sustained objections. The conversation turns to Chris Kelly and Judge Zagel admonishes Goldstein. Now they are asking Harris about being an attorney, a place the Judge warned them not to go. The prosecutors ask for a sidebar. Judge Zagel tells them to move on.
Move on they do. Right into 26 more sustained objections in 20 minutes. By the end of the morning. There were 79 sustained objections.
After lunch- more objections come rapid fire and are sustained. The Judge to Goldstein, “Confine your questions to what happened on direct exam.”
In the next few hours there are more sustained objections. Judge Zagel says to Goldstein:
- “You are way outside the scope
- “You are asking about that which is inadmissible and unreliable”
- “This man (John Harris) was called to testify about things he has witnesses, not what he is generally aware of ”
- “There is a way to get this into evidence. I expect someday you will use it.”
- “I don’t want argument disguised as a question” (with Tom Balanoff on stand)
- In regards to asking Balanoff if after their meeting did you call authorities? Judge Zagel to Goldstein “If this is near the end of your cross, you can stop now.”
- After numerous objections, the Judge says, “I’m very close to sitting you down. If you continue I will sit you down.”
- Judge to Goldstein, after the jury leaves the room “You are implicitly and explicitly outside of my order. If you continue I will sit you down.”
- Judge: “I have made my ruling. My ruling is very clear. It’s not the first time. I don’t want you to respond, I want you to comply.
On Wednesday, May 11, Attorney Lauren Kaeseberg moves for mistrial. She tells the Judge they have been “cut off at the knees…we look bad in front of the jury…we look like buffoons.” Zagel denies the motion and adds “I will not permit you to address anything outside of the scope because the last time it was abused.”
On Thursday May 12th, Robert Greenlee is on the stand. Goldstein says to Greenlee “You speak English, correct?” The Judge to Goldstein, “Don’t do that.” It is 10:43 a.m. and Goldstein has 38 objections by the prosecution sustained.
Later that afternoon, Sheldon Sorosky is cross-examining John Wyma. Sorosky tells the Judge it is troubling to have to reveal questions to the government before they are asked. Judge Zagel responds, “I gave you a lot of bites of the apple at the first trial. You are out of bites.
Sorosky is later admonished after blurting out “that’s a warped, slanted interpretation” to something Wyma says. Judge Zagel says, “You can do that at closing. If you keep doing it now, I will take time away from you at closing.”
When Sorosky asks Wyma, “Do you realize you are under oath?” the Judge admonishes him saying it falls into the category of civility. And when Sorosky tries to get Wyma to repeatedly to explain what “F**em” means, the Judge says, “It’s beyond his expertise. You can call someone to testify.” Sorosky had 44 objections sustained in the first hour of cross with Wyma. And after 55 objections, the Judge says to Sorosky, “Please stop - this is an attempt to mislead the jury.”
On May 18th the sustained objections continue. During the cross of Lon Monk, Sorosky has 129 sustained objections.
On May 19th, during the cross of Bradley Tusk, the barrage of sustained objections continues. Sorosky apologizes to the Judge. The Judge responds, “You shouldn’t do that twice.”
Just seven minutes later and the Judge warns Sorosky again. Judge says, “You are now into closing arguments. This is the last warning or I will sit you down.”
Ultimately, the defense team filed a motion for mistrial stating they were unable to ask meaningful questions during cross and "an erradication of the presumption of innocence." They also stated that have been prevented from asking basic questions that impeach the credibility of every witness in the case. In addition they were required at "an incrasing and alarming number of times" to preview questions or arguments. In addition, they charge that potential jurors were removed from the jury pool.