Deposed anti-gun Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich surprised most court-watchers today. When the government rested its case, Blago’s attorneys rested also, without presenting any active defense. Now, my day job involves a lot more time in court than that of most folks, and in a few decades of that, this particular gambit has always struck me as something like a jump-spinning back kick in a karate tournament. It will result in either a spectacular knockout, or the person who tried it falling on their butt.
I can understand the strategy. Blago is a loose cannon. (One pundit said this morning, “Whaddaya know – Blagojevich IS capable of keeping his mouth shut.”) Jurors are certain to remember that the defense promised in opening statements that the ex-guv would take the stand. Of course, the judge will instruct them to draw no inference from the fact that he did not, but human nature and the subconscious sometimes trump judicial instruction. We all figure that if WE were wrongly accused, we’d welcome our moment to righteously prove ourselves innocent, and we consciously or subconsciously wonder why the defendant did not.
Blago’s lawyers point out that the government also failed to live up to promises, not putting Tony Rezko and Rahm Emanuel on the stand as expected, either. Says one street-wise Chicagoan, “Of course they didn’t. If they put Rezko and Emanual on the stand, Obama would have had to wind up there, too.” Never let it be said that Chicago politicians don’t stick together.
I’ve seen the “defense strategy of no defense” actually work, but not often. Some years ago I was expert witness for Will Lozano, a Miami cop being tried for Manslaughter and being defended by a true dream team, Mark Seiden and the legendary Roy Black. As I was ready to head to the airport to catch a Miami flight, Mark called me and said, “Unpack your bags. Turn on Court TV and you’ll see why.” I did, and watched in real time as the state rested. Black stood up with a smile and said, “Since the state has presented no case, the defense rests, too.” And damned if the jury didn’t acquit.
However, with Roy cross-examining the eyewitnesses and Mark crossing the specialist witnesses, they had absolutely savaged the state’s trumped-up, politically motivated case. Have Sam Adams Senior and Junior really done that to the prosecution in this case?
Hell, I dunno; I haven’t followed the trial. But there are lawyers reading this, and people with juror experience, and court-watchers, and many who have followed the Blagojevich trial intensively. It probably won’t go to the jury until Monday – but for now, what say YOU?