Blagojevich Closing Arguments Center on Trust, “No Action” Argument
The corruption trial of former governor rod Blagojevich has come down to closing arguments, and a University of Illinois law professor says the success of either side depends on those arguments.
Last week Blagojevich's defense rested its case without bringing the ousted governor to the witness stand. Law professor Andrew Leipold says that's a common decision for defense attorneys, since defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and defenders don't think the prosecution totally proved its case. But Leipold still says he was surprised that Rod Blagojevich didn't testify since he and his lawyers had often said he would.
"I think most of what they were thinking is, 'Do we have anything to gain by exposing the governor not only to rebuttal evidence but to cross-examination?'" Leipold said. "Will he be able to articulate why it is that these tapes, that sure sound bad, really aren't that bad?"
Leipold says Blagojevich's attorneys will probably tell jurors that despite numerous phone conversations discussing potentially illegal acts, the ousted governor never took action. "To the extent the defense plan is going to be that the governor was blowing off steam, that he was just exploring possibilities but never intending to act on it...that's really important for the defense in closing, to help the jury reconcile the evidence they heard with that version of events," Leipold said.
The decision not to bring Blagojevich to the stand kept prosecutors from using two key former officials as witnesses. But Leipold says if prosecutors thought Tony Rezko or Stuart Levine were crucial to their case, they would have had them testify earlier in the trial.
Leipold says a lot rests on whether jurors see the prosecution's witnesses as credible - especially former chief of staff Lon Monk, who negotiated a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.