Blago Holdout Juror: I Didn’t Sleep At Night

JoAnn Chiakulas, the 67-year-old woman who was the lone No vote on 23 of 24 counts against Rod Blagojevich, is talking.

The juror who was the lone holdout on some counts at former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s political corruption trial has said she had a responsibility to follow her conscience and that she stands by her vote.  “I could never live with myself if I went along with the rest of the jury,” JoAnn Chiakulas told the Chicago Tribune in her first media interview since the trial ended. “I didn’t believe it was the correct vote for me.”

The jury last week deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts against Blagojevich and convicted him of lying to the FBI. On Thursday, Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich’s retrial would start the week of Jan. 4. Prosecutors have dropped charges against the former governor’s brother, Robert Blagojevich.  At the first trial, jurors deliberated for 14 days before the judge declared a mistrial on those 23 charges.

Rod Blagojevich is accused of attempting to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

Chiakulas said she did not believe Blagojevich committed a crime with regards to the seat. Blagojevich’s recorded statements on the Senate vacancy were so disorganized that his actions did not amount to a criminal conspiracy, she said.  In voting him not guilty, however, Chiakulas stressed that she did not find him innocent.  “I thought he was narcissistic,” she told the Tribune. “I thought he was all over the place. I thought he was just rambling.”

The 67-year-old juror said she also became concerned because some key witnesses against Blagojevich had cut deals with prosecutors before testifying. “Some people in (the jury room) only saw black and white,” Chiakulas said. “I think I saw, in the transcripts and in the testimony, shades of gray. To me, that means reasonable doubt.”

Being the holdout caused a great deal of stress, and Chiakulas said she suffered headaches and stomach pains.  “I can’t explain how badly I felt,” she said. “I didn’t sleep at night. I thought about it on the train. I wanted to make sure my reasonable doubt was reasonable.”

Jurors have a responsibility to acquit if they truly have reasonable doubt.  In this case, though, it seems that she thought the conspiracy wasn’t a conspiracy because Blago was too dumb to pull one off.   As to the witnesses who “cut deals” with prosecutors, I agree that they have a powerful incentive to testify strongly against the accused.  That doesn’t mean they’re lying, however.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. steveegg says:

    Did she at least have the common sense to not wear the new diamonds when she talked to the AP reporter?

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Except, I’m not sure any of the witnesses had cut deals.  She might be speculating.  I wonder if she is thinking of Christopher Kelly, Blago’s chief fundraiser, who pled guilty and then committed suicide.  He didn’t testify, he was dead.  Or some of the witnesses, like Stuart Levine, that the prosecutors did not end up calling.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Oh yeah, Lon Monk, Blago’s chief of staff pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.  He testified at the trial. 

  4. tgchicago says:

    While I was definitely hoping for Blago to go down, at least it seems like she took her job seriously and was making an honest effort to fulfill her duties.

  5. sam says:

    Having sat on three petite juries and one grand jury, I have to say, I don’t care what her reasons were. Unless someone can show jury tampering, she performed her duty as required . If she didn’t think he was guilty, and could not be convinced by the evidence or her fellow jurors, that’s the end of it. She followed her conscience, and that, in the end, is all we can really ask of any juror.