No Trial Delay for Rod Blagojevich

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens today denied former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's request for a stay of his trial. The trial is set to begin Thursday.

Blagojevich wanted a continuance until after the Supreme Court ruled in the case involving the validity of the honest services portion of the wire fraud statute.

Justice Department lawyers urged Stevens on Friday to allow the trial to proceed on schedule. They said in a 15-page filing that the judge presiding over the trial told the lawyers they were not to even mention the term "honest services" in their opening statements to the jury. They also noted the Blagojevich trial is expected to run for four months, so that the lawyers and the judge will have plenty of time to consider the Supreme Court's decisions on the constitutionality of the honest services provision.

I would have granted the delay. Jury selection, opening arguments and all-around trial strategy are impacted by the particular charges a defendant faces. If the Court tosses the law in the middle of the trial, it changes the entire complexion of the trial. The Court is ruling on the issue this term, so why not wait? Judicial economy shouldn't trump the defendant's right to a fair trial.

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    Do the calendar math (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by scribe on Sat May 29, 2010 at 11:41:46 AM EST
    It's the end of May and, by the time the trial starts, it's the beginning of June.

    We get a summer of Blago trial headines and highlights, a drumbeat of them.

    Four month trial means  it ends sometime in early October, in time for the election.

    Put off the start to the end of June - the honest services case will surely go until the last set of opinions to be released b/c they're likely to invalidate the statute and the Supremes have to draw their lines carefully when they do that - and, you get the trial ending in a week or so before the election.

    This way, the verdict can be discounted by the market before the election (regardless of how the trial comes out).  Granting the continuance means there's too little time before the election for the verdict to be sorted out and digested.

    So, the judges are playing not a little bit of politics with this one.

    Is it unusual for a court to delay (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:25:48 PM EST
    a criminal trial pending a challenge to a criminal statute?

    It is unusual (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peter G on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:33:48 PM EST
    for such a strong challenge to the validity of a criminal statute to exist, and to be so likely to succeed within the next month.  That said, if the Supreme Court decision is likely to change the law governing the trial, many judges would grant the extension.  I know that in the courts of appeals, where I tend to practice, judges are granting extensions of due dates for briefs in appeals that involve related issues.  

    seems like pretty good grounds for (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:37:25 PM EST
    a mistrial if the statute is found to be unconstitutional.

    Well Said (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:57:47 PM EST
    Judicial economy shouldn't trump the defendant's right to a fair trial.

    And if the state is so convinced about their case, what do they have to lose by granting extra time so that the defendant can thoroughly prepare his or her case.

    Not what defense is arguing, however. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by oculus on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:05:50 PM EST
    Really? (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:23:08 PM EST
    If the defendant argue the case now he would not be prepared to defend himself as the law may likely change.

    If the state is so sure that they would serve the public by fairly determining whether or not Blogovich should be removed aka jailed.

    It is bad faith on the part of the state to not grant more time to prepare.