Of the 60 odd seats in the courtroom, about half were assigned to members of the media. The remaining seats were filled by people who'd waited in line outside the Dirksen Building.
A second courtroom is being used to hold the overflow of media creatures, where they sit and listen on a lousy sound system.
Jury selection began today, and US District Judge James Zagel's little corner of the world is the center of the universe for Illinois Democrats, and several other prominent Dems who currently live in Washington, DC.
Zagel denied the request to subpoena Barack Obama, but he apparently feels Rahm Emanuel's schedule isn't too booked up.
The pool of potential jurors have all filled out a questionnaire. Zagel started with a group of about 350 people, and without any input from Blago's team or from the prosecution, immediately dismissed around 260 of them for various reasons; work, school, inability to work for $40 a day for the next 4 months, previous marriage to a prosecutor, bladder control problem, other health reasons.
Defense counsel requested Zagel start over with a fresh 350 yesterday, motion denied.
Despite a late request by the Chicago Tribune to release the names of the final jury, Zagel has ruled that they shall remain anonymous throughout the course of the trial, and specifically cited the "internet age" that we live in now, and the potential for people to email info to jurors during the trial, among his reasons for the Juror #1, Juror #2, Juror #3 routine.
Today's screening from Zagel was to give both teams a glimpse of what these people look like, sound like, act like. Defense gets 13 peremptory challenges, but realistically lawyers can run off as many prospects as they choose, for cause.
Prospect #101, the first one in the barrel, was (still is I'm sure) a white woman in her 60s. Likes include hiking, 60 Minutes, and listening to the radio.
Prospect #102, black female, 50s. Knows that Patti was on "some reality show" and mentioned that it had "something to do with bugs." Did campaign work for Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, wife of US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.. Jesse Jr. is on the potential defense witness list.
Prospect #111 was an international flight attendant. Watches TV mostly for the weather.
Zagel got through about 35 prospects today.
By the time this little process is over, we'll be down to 12 jurors, and likely 6 alternates.
And then the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial will be under way, although technically I guess the trial started this morning, but you know what I mean JackD.
We'll probably get to finally hear from Tony Rezko. We'll certainly hear some steamy shit from former Blago Chiefs of Staff John Harris and Lon Monk. Patti B may take the stand, and they may trot Durbin and Reid in from DC.
Jesse Jr. has been sweating this trial since he first heard that Fitz's office was calling him "Politician X" or whatever the hell letter they gave him. Valerie Jarrett is a possibility, and of course so is Rahm.
Our current Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan might be called by the defense, and that means her dad is sweating bullets too. (I think Sam Adam is trying to get a late subpoena issued to Jim Joyce, the ump who blew Armando Galarraga's perfect game call last night.)
This being an election year, the Dem Party in Illinois really wishes this wasn't happening. This trial is an Illinois Dem's nightmare. Blago's defense is going to involve airing out some of the nastiest behind-the-scenes stuff that our corrupt system has to offer. Adam and the rest of his team are about to explain how Pay-to-Play is the Only-Way in Illinois politics, and many of those who were also in positions of power during Blago's reign of greed and corruption...are STILL in positions of power.
This trial will effect the November elections in Illinois.
It's about to get ugly in Chicago folks.The circus has come to town.