Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Annals Of The Law: Women And Children Can Be Careless, But Not Men

People who know me are aware that I often rise at a grisly hour of the morning to row. There are a variety of advantages to this, including being too confused for lack of sleep to have that debate about whether I should work out or keep writing. The best one, however, is that I hear the first half hour of National Public Radio's Morning Edition on the way to the boat house. I have six miles of a workout in a single scull to think uninterrupted about whatever I have heard, and I can listen to the same stories again on the way back and decide whether any of them are worthy of a blog post.

Which is how I decided to write about yesterday's closing arguments in the Rod Blagojevich trial. Blagojevich, you may recall, is the former Governor of Illinois. He is being tried on multiple counts of corruption, including attempts to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Defense counsel Sam Adams, Jr. made the argument we might expect: that the government's case is manufactured and that prosecutors have twisted circumstantial evidence to make the defendant appear to be corrupt.

Blagojevich is also, according to his attorney, a compulsive talker, and says all kinds of things that he either doesn't mean or that are open to interpretation by others. ("Never tell anyone outside the family what you're thinking again.")

But what explains all the evidence, and the witnesses who testified for the prosecution? They misunderstood "negotiation" for "extortion," that's all, and maybe Blogojevich should have said less and conveyed more clearly what he actually meant. Like, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." It appears that the logic of the defense's position is that the former governor is "insecure" and not "the sharpest knife in the drawer."

Wondering about the corny Mafia theme? I haven't told you yet about Adams' sure-fire offensive ethnic humor strategy (law students, listen up):

At one point, the bombastic attorney launched into a story about his Italian grandmother, who shoots a mule dead after it stumbled three times. "Thatsa one! Thatsa two! Thatsa three!" Adam yelled, mimicking the accent.

When her husband called her stupid for shooting the mule, she warned him: "Thatsa one!"

Is this -- or is this not -- a great Chicago story? What NPR doesn't mention is that this little parable actually illustrates political bullying at its best.

And now, as we settle in to the last month of summer, here's a little more good advice from Don Radicale:


Comrade PhysioProf said...

Row? You mean like a fucken boat? In the morning? Before work?

I knew you historians were weirdos, but that takes the cake!

Miss Trudy said...

I enjoy your blog and I especially liked this post. Great analysis of an absurd defense strategy. He's a compulsive talker, hence, he is not responsible for the way his boorish boasts and threats are taken. Riiiight. BTW, I have to admire your getting up at the crack of dawn to go row a boat. And I mean "admire" in the same sense that I admire people who walk barefoot on searing hot coals ... ;o)

Historiann said...

Blago is in fact a clown. He might also be corrupt. You can't blame the man's defense team for trying to use the bleeding obvious in his favor. There was a very good portrait of Blago and the trial in the last New Yorker--those of you who subscribe (or can lift a copy at the gym or your dentist's office) should check it out.

Personally, it warms my heart to hear about good old city machine-style politics, however ineptly executed. I can't wait to see, hear, and read interviews with the jury once they've rendered their verdict.