He says he is a victim of a political vendetta crafted by his enemies in Springfield, the state capital. His mantra has been a call to have a complete airing of the wiretap recordings taken of his phone conversations in order to show the context to his most inflammatory statements. He also repeatedly has insisted he take the stand to testify, an opportunity that did not come to fruition in the first trial.
His day in court finally came Thursday. His appearance came as a surprise to some court watchers who assumed the reason he did not testify in the first trial was because he could not guarantee keeping in check his propensity for going off topic.
However, Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago lawyer who is tracking the trial, says one reason Blagojevich’s defense team opted to allow him to speak this time is because of what they learned during the first trial: That all the jurors except one were convinced of his guilt.
“They realized how close Blagojevich came to being convicted and realized they had to take a gamble, roll the dice and hope that [he] can sell the jurors on his innocence,” Mr. Stoltmann said.
To anyone who has followed Blagojevich’s television appearances, the opening day of his testimony followed close to character. Much of the morning testimony was spent on his biography: How he met his wife, the admiration he feels for his father, a Serbian immigrant, his insecurity in attending Northwestern University, the meaning of his Serbian name Milorad, and his love of history.
“I had a man-crush on Alexander Hamilton,” he told jurors.