Morning Joe Crew Decries Blago Convictions: A 'Miscarriage of Justice'

The following post was based on a misunderstanding of the conversation described. Please see our retraction here.

Tuesday's Morning Joe treated the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as a relatively minor affair, and gave it little to no coverage save a brief discussion about the supposed injustice of the process. "It's any other day and that's any other news story," said Mika Brzezinski, who appeared annoyed at being asked to cover the story at all. Later, she insisted "We're not going to waste the first block on this."

Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist were both upset by the decision. "It is a miscarriage of justice. They can't prove it," said Scarborough. Geist lamented, "I grew up in a country where you only had to stand trial once for a crime. Didn't they already go through this once? Nothing stuck."

Scarborough laid his law degree on the table: "Here's the deal. I don't want to talk about it a lot, but I am a lawyer. And I can tell you,  I didn't have to go to law school to learn about a little concept called double jeopardy...The entire weight of the government leaning down on him. The jury goes, "no, we see nothing wrong with this man except perhaps his hair cut." And then he wins and then they throw the entire weight of the federal government on him again twice. I'm sorry. That's just not the America I grew up in. "

What Scarborough forgets (or never learned) is that the Blagojevich case is not subject to double jeopardy. The Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy is designed to protect the acquitted from multiple and repeated prosecutions, and only applies to cases in which a verdict has been reached. Because 23 of the counts against Blagojevich were declared mistrials, no judgment had been reached. According to Chicago defense attorney Ava George Stewart, "if the jury had decided that Blagojevich was not guilty, then the government could not retry him, as they have already indicated they intend to do.  In this case, Double Jeopardy is inapplicable."

Mike Barnicle also jumped into the discussion with his own wisdom. "You have to ask yourself, are we living in a country where Blago goes to jail for being a politician, and Wall Street financiers who almost ruined the country go to South Hampton?" According to Barnicle, trying to sell a US Senate seat is just business as usual in Washington, and shouldn't be anything to get excited about.
 

A transcript of the discussion, which aired at 6:00 am on Tuesday, follows.

MSNBC
MORNING JOE
06/28/2011

6:00 am EDT

[START VIDEO CLIP]

ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Among the many lessons that I learned from this whole experience is o try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short. Patty and I obviously are very disappointed with the outcome. I frankly am stunned. There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and - and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out. And I'm sure we'll be seeing you guys again.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Okay it is 6:00 on the east coast - bababa - yes, it is. It's any other day and that's any other news story, and we'll get to that third. Okay?

JOE SCARBOROUGH: This will not stand.

BRZEZINSKI: We've got so many other things to get to before we get to Blago.

SCARBOROUGH: You're all out of order. This is - Willie Geist, help me out. Depressing.

BRZEZINSKI: You don't do that. You don't sell Senate seats, okay? Doesn't work.

ANDY SERWER: You can, you just go to jail.

SCARBOROUGH: Broadcast news. They keep moving the line.
 
MIKE BARNICLE: It's a miscarriage of justice.

SCARBOROUGH: It is a miscarriage of justice. They can't prove it.

GEIST: I grew up in a country where you only had to stand trial once for a crime. Didn't they already go through this once? Nothing stuck.

SCARBOROUGH: It's double jeopardy.

BRZEZINSKI: Just because you're the Justin Bieber of Egypt does not mean -

MIKE BARNICLE: That's true. You have to ask yourself, are we living in a country where Blago goes to jail for being a politician, and Wall Street financiers who almost ruined the country go to South Hampton for the weekend?

BRZEZINSKI: Really? You want to have this discussion?

[CROSSTALK]

GEIST: Hold on, Joe's a lawyer.

SCARBOROUGH: Here's the deal, okay. I don't want to talk about it a lot, but I am a lawyer. And I can tell you, I didn't have to go to law school to learn about a little concept called double jeopardy. Now you can say -

BRZEZINSKI: We're not going to waste the first block on this.

SCARBOROUGH: No, but seriously. The entire weight of the government leaning down on him. The jury goes, "no, we see nothing wrong with this man except perhaps his hair cut." And then he wins and then they throw the entire weight of the federal government on him again twice. I'm sorry. That's just not the America I grew up in.