Would-be jurors were expected to begin filling out questionnaires Wednesday meant to help weed out anyone with strong biases for or against the ousted Illinois governor.
Since Blagojevich's first trial last year that ended with jurors deadlocked on all but one count, federal prosecutors have honed and simplified their case, dropping complex racketeering charges to address complaints by the previous jury that the evidence was too hard to follow.
For his part, Blagojevich, now 54, is returning with a scaled-down, more bookish defense team that no longer includes lead lawyer Sam Adam Jr., whose courtroom theatrics in round one often drew the judge's ire. And this time, Blagojevich will be the lone defendant after authorities dropped all charges against his brother.
Like a second-night Broadway performance, the actors presumably come in with many missteps and miscues corrected.
"Everyone improves," said Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein.
The central figure in the case isn't required to appear for the earliest stages of jury selection, so it could be a day or two before Blagojevich makes his entrance. Jury selection could take about a week.
Blagojevich said recently that he looked forward to the chance to try and prove his innocence. But he also said he dreaded the retrial.
"To have to sit through that and hear all that again ... it's brutal," Blagojevich told The Associated Press in a weekend interview at his Chicago home -- the family dog, Skittles, resting on his lap.
The former contestant on TV's "Celebrity Apprentice" faces 20 charges, including that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.
Already, he could get up to five years in prison for the lying conviction at the first trial. And the stakes are as high as ever this time: A conviction on just one offense could mean a decade or more behind bars.
Last year, a single juror who refused to go along with the rest of the panel was the only thing that prevented Blagojevich from being convicted on the Senate seat charge.
"Would you want to be the defense knowing you have to change 11 minds to get an acquittal or prosecutors thinking you have to change just one?" said Michael Helfand, a Chicago attorney with experience in federal courts.
One question potential jurors are being asked is how closely they followed the high-profile, occasionally circus-like first trial. Knowledge of the case, though, wouldn't automatically rule someone out.
Prosecutors have their challenges, too. Their case so befuddled jurors at the first trial they drew up their own timelines of alleged misdeeds and taped them to a wall as they deliberated.
In pretrial preparations, prosecutors have been working to simplify everything.
The dropped racketeering charges, which have stupefying legal points and subpoints. They also dismissed all charges against Blagojevich's brother and co-defendant, Robert Blagojevich, allowing them to focus entirely on the former governor.
They even sought to edit out what they consider irrelevant chit-chat on hours of FBI wiretap recordings, evidence at the heart of the government case, including a reference in one conversation to Blagojevich's famously bountiful locks.
"They've been like a ship tossing excess baggage over board to get through a storm," said David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
With the prosecution pursuing a condensed case, many experts say it would behoove the defense to call at least a few witnesses -- in contrast to the first trial, when they chose not to put on a case.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor, said he would normally adhere to conventional wisdom that it's almost always a bad idea to expose a defendant to blistering cross-examination. But he said the defense may want to consider putting Blagojevich on the stand.
"As a politician, Blagojevich knows rhetorical bobbing and weaving, and he knows acting, so he can act cool or indignant when he needs to," Turner said. "He could be formidable."
Blagojevich told the AP he has been preparing for the possibility he could testify. But he said whether or not he actually will take the stand is a decision that will be made during the trial.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
CHICAGO (AP) -- Rod Blagojevich's second corruption trial is set to get under way with nearly all the same evidence as the first trial, just packaged and presented in a whole new way.