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Blago jury: Evidence on Senate seat was most clear

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CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors among those who convicted Rod Blagojevich of corruption Monday said they found the former Illinois governor personable, but had to set that aside to consider what they found to be clear evidence that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's Senate seat.

All 12 jurors — 11 women and one man — met with reporters after the verdict in a spare courtroom. They identified themselves only by their juror numbers, noting that their full names will be released Tuesday. Four alternates also sat in on the news conference but didn't take questions.

Jurors said the evidence that Blagojevich tried to secure a high-paying, high-powered position in exchange for an appointment to Obama's seat in the Senate was the most clear.

"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140. Jurors said they listened and re-listened to tape recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides as he discussed ways to ask for a Cabinet post or government job in exchange for naming Obama's preferred candidate for the Senate.

Jurors said they feel confident they reached a fair verdict and acknowledged that it was difficult to convict Blagojevich, who they said they found likable.

"He was personable," said Juror 103. "It made it hard to separate what we actively had to do as jurors."

Still, Juror 140 said she found Blagojevich's testimony over seven days at times "manipulative."

"Our verdict shows that we didn't believe it," she said.

Jurors said their deliberations were respectful and productive, and in a statement read by the forewoman, they said they felt "privileged to be part of our federal judicial system."

The forewoman, a retired director of music and liturgy at a church, called the jury "an amazing group of people."

"They did such due diligence," she said. "They were so wanting to keep innocent until proven guilty."

Jurors said they hope their verdict sends a message to public officials not to take the people's trust lightly.

The forewoman, who was Juror No. 146, joked that she told her husband if he's considering a career in politics, he'd have to find a new wife.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. Read below for an earlier AP story.

CHICAGO (AP) - A jury has convicted Rod Blagojevich of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and other corruption charges.

Jurors delivered their verdicts Monday after deliberating nine days.

Blagojevich had faced 20 charges, including that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat and schemed to shake down executives for campaign donations.

Blagojevich testified for seven days, denying wrongdoing. Prosecutors said he lied and the proof was on FBI wiretaps. Those included a widely parodied clip in which Blagojevich calls the Senate opportunity "f------ golden."

Jurors in his first trial deadlocked on all but one charge, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. Prosecutors opted to try him again.

Blagojevich already faces up to five years for the lying conviction.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. For AP's earlier story, read below.

CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors deliberating in the corruption trial of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told a judge on Monday that they have reached a verdict on 18 of the 20 counts against him, and attorneys in the case have agreed that the verdict should be read.

Judge James Zagel said that will happen Monday afternoon.

The jury had returned to the federal courthouse in Chicago on Monday after nine days of deliberations. They had been talking over the evidence in the case over a three-week period.

Blagojevich, 54, has denied all wrongdoing, including allegations that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat in exchange for

The ousted governor faced 20 charges, including that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat and schemed to shake down executives for campaign donations.

Blagojevich took the stand at the retrial and denied all the charges.

Jurors at the first trial came back deadlocked after deliberating for 14 days. They agreed on just one of 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.

Despite that, hung juries are rare. According to one federal study, using data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, just 2.5 percent of federal trials from 1980 to 1997 ended hung — a lower rate than for juries in state courts.

When jurors do deadlock, it is often at trials where the charges are complex and where the evidence appears ambiguous, a 2002 federally funded study by The National Center for State Courts found.

"You have both in the Blagojevich case — complexity and evidence that's not straightforward," said Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago defense attorney who tries cases in federal court.

Prosecutors almost certainly factored that in going into the retrial. They streamlined the case by dropping racketeering counts against the ex-governor and dismissing all charges against his then co-defendant brother, Robert Blagojevich.

And at the retrial, they presented just three weeks of evidence — half the time taken at the first trial. They called fewer witnesses, asked fewer questions and played shorter excerpts of FBI wiretaps that underpin most of the charges.

There was also a new variable at the retrial: Testimony from Blagojevich himself. At the first trial, the defense rested without calling any witnesses and Blagojevich didn't testify despite vowing that he would.

But retrial jurors saw a deferential Blagojevich look them in the eyes and deny each and every allegation, telling them his talk on the recordings was mere brainstorming. This time, jurors must decide if they believe him.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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