Massive Shock That Female Jurors Didn't Go Easy On Blagojevich


Earlier this week, a jury of eleven women and one man convicted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on 17 of 20 charges related to corruption. So much for the theory that emotionally susceptible ladies would never convict him.

As Carol Marin explains in the Chicago Sun-Times, “there was a persistent notion expressed in courthouse chatter that because the jury was made up of 11 women and just one man, it might be more soft-hearted toward our former governor.” The governor’s first trial had been 50-50, but one woman became known as a holdout, doubting the prosecution’s case.

Stacking the jury with women may have been partly a maneuver on the part of the defense, as was noted before the conviction:

“I told Shelly [Sorosky, defense attorney], ‘Knock every man off,'” said Michael Ettinger, the former attorney for Robert Blagojevich, Rod’s brother, campaign fund manager and codefendant before prosecutors dropped charges against him last year. “If I was picking the jury, I’d have excused every man I could.”

Ettinger has an interesting theory as to why this might be the case: men “are jealous of other men,” and before Blagojevich was a punchline, he was a governor. That’s a novel spin, and weirdly refreshing considering how often we hear that women are jealous of each other. And Marin says the ex-governor “did his level best to play to stereotype. He brought up repeatedly how much he cared about children, health care and mammograms for poor women.”

It didn’t work. He was convicted on the evidence, which managed to penetrate those eleven ladybrains. Still, Chicago Tribune Mary Schmich suggests there was one difference gender made: in the process by which the jury reached a verdict.

Instead of launching into votes on the various counts – yay or nay – they used a technique called “fist-to-five” that Karin Wilson has learned as a grade-school teacher: To signal agreement, raise five fingers of one hand. If you disagree entirely, display your fist. If you’re somewhere in between, use a finger count to signal where. The jurors reached their decisions with no bullying, no shouting, no pouting. A colleague of mine who has covered a lot of trials said she’s never seen a jury build agreement through so many shades of gray.

None of the jurors she interviewed thought the result would have been different with more men on the jury, but it sounded like they were pretty pleased with the overall experience.

Women Jurors No Easier On Blagojevich [Sun Times]
Would The Blagojevich Jury Have Deliberated Differently If More Men Were On It? [Chicago Tribune]
Is A Predominately Female Jury A Good Thing For Rod Blagojevich? [Sun Times]

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