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Waiting game continues in Blagojevich trial

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
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Waiting on the Blagojevich verdict
  • Jury is still deliberating in Rod Blagojevich trial
  • Monday would be the 13th day of deliberations
  • Jurors say they are not close to a verdict

(CNN) -- If the Rod Blagojevich trial were a movie, it could be called Lost in Deliberation.

The fate of the former Illinois governor is in the hands of a jury that can't seem to make up its mind.

Two weeks have gone by. And if the note the jury sent to the judge on Thursday is any indication, the deliberations are likely to drag into a third week.

But will this be a record for jury deliberations? Not by a long shot.

In 2004, a mother and son sued Long Beach, California, saying the city was violating federal law by not allowing them to open up residential homes for Alzheimer's patients.

A jury took four months deciding the multimillion dollar case, which is believed to be a record for the mainland United States.

But that's nothing compared to a case in Guam in 2001, where the jury spent a whopping 15 months to render a decision in a big-dollar civil case.

"We have the record even though there is no agency that tracks deliberation times," said Dick Williams, the lead attorney in the Guam case. "In the legal lore, our case is thought of as the longest."

The case involved a lawsuit against two construction firms after an earthquake toppled a resort hotel in Guam.

The first indication that the verdict would take a while came when the jury sent a note to the judge that had nothing to do with the evidence in the case.

"The first request from the jury on the first day of deliberations was for two refrigerators," Williams said.

While they wait, lawyers and nervous clients can only look to questions and requests the jury makes to the judge for clues on when a verdict may come.

Other than that, what happens in the jury room is a secret.

In the Blagojevich federal corruption case, the former governor faces charges including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery.

The two-term Democrat was removed from office in January 2009 amid accusations that he attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been occupied by Barack Obama before he became president.

On Thursday, the jury sent a note that suggested that it was far from reaching a decision.

The panel had only decided on two of the 24 counts against Blagojevich, the note said. It failed to agree on 11 counts and had yet to consider 11 others, involving wire fraud charges. They were implored to keep working.

A judge has a few tools to move a jury toward reaching a decision in a case.

He or she can step in and ask the jury if it is deadlocked and then declare a hung jury.

This leads to a mistrial and a possibility that a case would have to be re-tried.

This option does not seem likely in the Blagojevich case, some legal experts say.

"I think the judge will be patient in this case," said Jessica Gabel, a law professor at Georgia State University.

"The larger issue is if there is a hung jury, this could be very costly in a time when prosecutors cannot afford it. The case would have to tried all over again and with the media and paparazzi and everything that goes along with this case, it could become very costly."

One of Blagojevich's lawyers has already told the Chicago Tribune that the wait is affecting him. He hasn't been able to eat or sleep, according to the attorney.

Those who have been through longer waits have some advice.

"In my case, I just tried not to think about it," said Barry Litt, who was an attorney in the Long Beach case.

"After it gets past five days, any trial lawyer will start to get anxious."

In the Blagojevich case, Monday will be Day 13.