Blago jury forewoman speaks to Metea students
Connie Wilson says she hopes her meticulous approach to serving on the jury that found Rod Blagojevich guilty of federal corruption charges can serve as an example to others.
The jurors spent more than two days reviewing tapes played during the trial, Wilson said Tuesday during an appearance at Metea Valley High School in Aurora. They constructed a paper timeline that covered the wall of their deliberation room. And they never held a secret ballot, except to select the Naperville woman as their forewoman.
Almost 300 students in government classes at Metea Valley listened to Wilson, who also will speak Wednesday morning at the school.
She challenged students, many of them 18-year-old registered voters, to serve as active, informed citizens when called to jury duty.
"I want people who know what they're doing," Wilson, 57, said.
She showed sketches of the former governor during his testimony and copies of her jury summons and questionnaire. One yes-or-no question posed to potential jurors stood out: Are all government officials corrupt?
"I wrote an essay answer," Wilson said.
That thorough style reflected her philosophy as forewoman. She wanted all of the jurors to be heard. Some took extensive notes, picking up on Blagojevich's contradictions and references to jurors' personal interests during his testimony.
For instance, Wilson noted the former governor would refer to his office as a "library" because there was a librarian on the jury.
"He was blowing smoke so that the jury would like him as a person and start disregarding what we were looking at as the facts," said Wilson, a retired church director of music and liturgy.
Wilson was one of several jurors who watched U.S. District Judge James Zagel hand down Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence. She hopes it will send a message to other public officials.
"I think that was why it was so stiff," Wilson said.
Since the trial, the jurors have organized reunions, including a Christmas party. And Wilson plans to continue speaking about jury duty in the community.
"I'm finding my voice," Wilson told the Daily Herald. "I think I have found my voice as an advocate for taking responsibility as a citizen."
Julia Laski, a Metea Valley senior, said Wilson's presentation highlighted her own civic responsibility.
"It made me realize that normal citizens have a big say in the judicial system," she said.