Blagojevich Jurors Possibly Hung

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at the Federal Court building, Monday, July 26, 2010, in Chicago.
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato
Updated 7:38 p.m. ET

Jurors in the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat among other things, have sent a note to the judge suggesting they may be deadlocked on some counts.

A note read in court on Wednesday says the jury is asking for guidance if they can't reach a unanimous decision on at least some counts. They say they've made ''a reasonable attempt'' and did so without rancor.

CBS Station WBBM in Chicago reports that Judge James Zagel has advised them to continue deliberating.

Zagel, who read the note aloud in court, said he would send note back to jurors asking them to be clearer about what they meant so that he could advise them. He said he would tell them it was OK to agree on some counts but not others.

Michael Ettinger, the attorney for Rod Blagojevich's brother co-defendant Robert Blagojevich said neither the judge nor attorneys in court understood exactly what the note meant.

''We don't know what it means. The judge doesn't know what it means,'' Ettinger said. He said the jurors had gone home for the day, and the judge would have another hearing at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Ettinger said he doesn't believe the jury is confused about the law or about the jury instructions. He believes they're hung, he said.

''A hung jury is better than a conviction,'' he said.

Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Sr. said he couldn't comment because Zagel told attorneys not to discuss the case.

Joel Levin, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said it's likely that jurors have reached a verdict on at least some counts.

''If they hadn't reached a verdict on anything I would have expected some language saying that,'' he said.

"This is a major road block for the government," said CBS Station WBBM legal analyst Irv Miller. He said it is now clear that prosecutors have not convinced all of the jurors that the defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on some, and perhaps all, counts.

It is possible for the judge to accept a verdict on some counts, Miller said. If jurors cannot reach a decision on the other charges, it would be up to the government to decide if it wants a retrial.

Since the jury began deliberations, they've sent two previous notes to the judge. Blagojevich and his co-defendant brother haven't been asked to attend court when previous notes were read. But they were asked to show up because of the potential importance of this note.

Rod Blagojevich smiled but seemed more tense as he arrived at the courtroom not stopping, as he'd often done during much of the trial, to chat with spectators or sign autographs.

As Zagel spoke, Blagojevich looked on with his hands folded. Before proceeding started he walked over to hug his brother Robert's adult son. He left the courthouse without speaking.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including charges of trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash, and of pressuring people for campaign donations.

If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.

His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.

At the trial, prosecutors relied heavily on wiretap tapes in which Blagojevich spewed profanity and speculated about getting a Cabinet job in exchange for the Senate seat. Defense attorneys argued that Blagojevich was a big talker, but never committed a crime.

Not much is known about the jurors, because Zagel prohibited the release of their names until after the verdict. There is a math teacher, a retired public health official, a former Marine injured serving in the Middle East, a Navy veteran, an avid marathon runner and a man born in a U.S. internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.