Connie Wilson recalls Rod Blagojevich playing on her love for music while she sat on the jury that ultimately of 17 of 20 federal corruption charges in June.
Wilson said the former Illinois governor did the same for the librarian on the jury. And the Red Sox fan. And so on.
Blagojevich, in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors, was trying to connect to them on a personal level. It may have been the biggest reason that 11 out of 12 jurors were women—it was believed that they would have been more compassionate towards a father and family man, Wilson said.
Those details and more were shared with a group of area residents Monday as Wilson discussed her experiences while on the Blagojevich retrial jury at the DuPage Township Democratic Organization’s business meeting at .
Wilson speculated on how she was selected to the jury in the first place, why she was voted as forewoman and talked about life post-trial.
“We had to be there for two months,” she said. “My life certainly changed that day (she was selected to the jury).”
Wilson, a Naperville resident, said she received her jury summons just four days before retiring as the choral director at .
After filling out a 38-page questionnaire and answering several personal questions on her acquaintances, Wilson said she believes it was her answer to a straight forward question that got her the nod.
“The question said, ‘Do you believe all politicians are corrupt? Yes or no?’ ... That’s not exactly a yes or no answer, so I wrote on the side my answer,” she said.
That answer was eventually read aloud by the judge during jury selection. A few hours later, Wilson found herself—along with 18 other men and women—being escorted down a service elevator with two federal agents who informed her she would be serving on the jury.
Wilson said her life was essentially put on hold as she would have to dedicate the next two months of her time to hearing testimony and reviewing evidence.
“Some (jurors) weren’t happy that they had to take vacation time that would not be paid for; some were self-employed (and they would have to miss work); one even had planned to propose on an upcoming trip and had to delay the trip,” she said.
Wilson, who was known as Juror 146, said she never nominated herself to become forewoman and was eventually named the leader after the jury’s only anonymous vote of the trial.
As charming as Blagojevich could be, Wilson said, the FBI’s tape recordings of Blagojevich’s phone conversations were just too obvious to ignore.
But that isn’t to say the jurors didn’t have a tough time with coming to a conclusion. Wilson and her fellow jurors deliberated for 10 days before coming to a verdict on 18 of 20 counts.
During that time, Wilson said the jurors listened to all the FBI’s tapes over again and in order, including the infamous “f------ golden” conversation. Wilson said one potential juror was even booted from being considered after his cell phone’s ringtone contained the quote and rang during his questioning.
The jury also heavily relied on timelines and a photo board similar to one you would see in an FBI movie that contained the likes of President Barack Obama, now-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
As for the two counts that the jury was deadlocked on, Wilson said jurors had a difficult time with taped evidence.
“It was basically one person’s testimony against another’s,” she said.
The group was even close to finding Blagojevich not guilty on one of those counts, she said.
Editor's Note: In the original version of this article, the author incorrectly identified Connie Wilson as Connie Smith. Bolingbrook Patch regrets this error.