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Experts: Deadlocked jury good news for Blagojevich

CHICAGO - The jury's message that it is deadlocked on a number of charges in the corruption trial of Rod Blagojevich raised as many questions as answers yesterday, but some legal experts agreed it was better news for the disgraced former Illinois governor than for prosecutors.

In a note read in court by Judge James Zagel, jurors said they had only managed to agree on two of 24 counts against Blagojevich and had not even begun discussing 11 of the counts.

On the 12th day of deliberations, Zagel instructed the jury to go back and continue their work, but the panel's disclosure sparked speculation that some jurors had doubts about the prosecution's case.

"It's a victory for the defense for several reasons," said Douglas Godfrey, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, arguing that the way the government had presented its case was extremely complex. "If the jury hangs on 22, it's a big blow to government."

Michael Helfand, a Chicago defense attorney not involved in the case, agreed there was potentially positive news in the note for Blagojevich. "The defense has every reason to be thrilled," he said.

But Daniel Coyne, another Kent professor, said it may not be such good news for the defense, because no one knows what the two counts are that have been decided, or how the jury decided on them.

"That's a little premature," he said. "It means some more sleepless nights [for the defense]. Trying to forecast what a jury is doing is really very treacherous work."

The 11 counts the jury has yet to discuss involve wire fraud. Most of them deal with FBI wiretap recordings and the allegation that Blagojevich tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

Blagojevich did not comment after the hearing, but at least one of his attorneys, Aaron Goldstein, suggested that the latest word from jurors could be good news for his client.

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