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Saturday, August 28, 2021 6:00 PM

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CHICAGO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The jury that deadlocked on all but one of the counts in the Rod Blagojevich trial said the prosecution's case and the judge's instructions were too complex.

As prosecutors and defense lawyers prepare for a retrial in January, members of the first trial's jury say they found the more than 100 pages of judicial instructions too difficult to fathom and open to interpretation, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.

Reaching consensus was complicated by difficulty in agreeing on the meaning of the complex set of legal directions the jury was given by U.S. District Judge James Zagel, one juror said.

"I'm supposed to judge a man's life and read 105 pages of law?" juror Ashlee Moore asked. "To me that was completely ridiculous and not fair."

JoAnn Chiakulas, the sole holdout against convicting Blagojevich on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat, said government lawyers need to simplify the complicated case that charged Blagojevich with a number of conspiracies that spanned many years.

"The charges need to be done in such a way that people can understand them and focus on one at a time," she said.

Such complaints are not unfamiliar to prosecutors but can be difficult to overcome, lawyer Joel Bertocchi, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said.

"If you dumb it down too far, there's a danger that jurors will convict on not the right evidence," said Bertocchi. "On the other hand, the jury may also say, 'We don't get it.'"

Iraq on high alert

BAGHDAD, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki put the country on high alert, expecting terrorist activity from al-Qaida and "remnants of the Baath party," he said.

Al-Maliki said, "Al-Qaida and remnants of the Baath Party with foreign backing are planning to carry out a series of bombings in Baghdad and the other provinces," CNN reported Saturday.

The alert was issued Friday near midnight.

"We call on local governments and the security forces to take the maximum levels of precaution," the government said in a statement.

The warning follows a series of attacks that left 48 dead and 286 injured in 13 different cities.

The increased violence has raised concerns about Iraq's ability to protect its citizens as the U.S. military forces withdraw from the country.

The withdrawal of troops is expected to be complete by the end of 2011.

Kim's secret visit to China appears over

CHANGCHUN, China, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A secret visit to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il appears to be winding down, sources told Yonhap news.

Neither North Korea nor China would officially acknowledge the trip, which analysts believe was primarily about securing China's approval for Kim to transfer power when he retires to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

"The most important issue for North Korea is succession," said an official at the presidential office in Seoul.

Kim's visit coincided with Chinese President Hu Jintao's vacation, which put them in the same region in northeast China.

The official said, "Chances are high for Kim to return home this evening after wrapping up his itinerary," which included visits to an automobile factory and an agricultural university.

On Saturday morning, about 20 limousines were seen leaving the South Lake Hotel in Changchun, and two hours later a container truck believed to be carrying luggage for the entourage also left the hotel, sources said.

Fort Worth tops in political donations

FORT WORTH, Texas, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Records show that a Texas ZIP code that is home to a bevy of law firms and energy companies is the leading source of political contributions this year.

The Center for Responsive Politics said the 76102 ZIP code in Fort Worth sent in nearly $250,000 for federal office candidates during the current election cycle, the most of any ZIP code in the United States.

Fort Worth topped other Texas energy meccas such as downtown Houston and Midland, according to the organization.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram said Saturday concerns about future regulation of the natural gas industry in Texas appear to have driven the donations from 76102.

"They are putting their money behind the current lightly regulated regime," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "They don't want to see the regulations tightened up."

The bulk of the donations went to Republican candidates, according to the analysis.

(Source: UPI )


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