What Is Legal Malpractice? The Criminal Defense Lawyer For Ex-Governor Blagojevich Gives Us A Perfect Example


It was not terribly surprising when ex-Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, was found guilty of corruption charges on Monday. The charges against Blagojevich included trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. What was notable about the trial was the strategy of Blagojevich’s lawyers in choosing to have Blagojevich testify.

Jurors at the first trial came back deadlocked after deliberating for 14 days. The jurors agreed on only one of twenty-four counts, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. At the first trial, the defense rested without calling any witnesses and Blagojevich did not testify despite proclaiming that he would. Given the result, the defense lawyers made a great strategic decision in keeping Blagojevich on the sidelines–“less is more” and “keep things simple stupid” are cliches that come to mind.

What is baffling is the decision of the defense lawyers’ to put Blagojevich on the stand at the retrial. In the second trial, known as the “retrial”, Blagojevich testified for seven days, denying wrongdoing. Even though the prosecutors had proof on audiotape, during which Blagojevich calls the Senate opportunity “f—-ing golden”. At the retrial, Blagojevich looked in the eyes of the jurors and denied all of the allegations, telling the jury that his statements on the audio recording were “mere brainstorming” (what does that mean? I guess you had to be there).

The jury didn’t buy it. Would you? The defense lawyers put Blagojevich on the witness stand even though he was contradicting audio recordings that seem impossible to explain. What makes this decision even more difficult to understand is the fact that the defense succeeded in the first trial with their strategy of muzzling Blagojevich. What were the defense lawyers thinking? Maybe they weren’t thinking at all.

By allowing Blagojevich to fumble through seven days of trial testimony, the defense lawyers made a monumental mistake (not that defending this charlatan was an easy task). Instead of keeping the simple and effective strategy of attacking the prosecution’s case, the defense made the case complicated by putting Blagojevich on the stand. Lesson learned: if you have a clueless moron for a client, don’t let him testify.

If you have any thoughts or questions, I would love to hear from you. I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or by e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com.