The search to find twelve jurors who either have not heard of Kwame Kilpatrick or is indifferent about Kwame Kilpatrick has proven to be somewhat of a challenge this week for both the prosecutors and defendants. It’s even harder when a trial is set in the city of Detroit where all of this supposed dirty corruption went down.
Week two of jury selections and Judge Nancy Edmunds has made it painfully obvious that this trial will happen in front of a scrupulous and treacherous media. The fact that Kwame Kilpatrick has received a slew of negative press before during and after his infamous text scandal trial, which landed him in jail for perjury, has been mentioned to every potential juror seated on the jury box. Each lawyer from Bobby Ferguson’s to the United State’s Attorney’s office has given ample time and energy to deciphering the facts of their exposure to the many reports. Judge Edmunds starts every interview by saying, “…We understand that you would have had to live under a rock to not be exposed to all of the negative press on Detroit’s former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.” So how can a man be tried in such a hostile and unbiased environment, which is, suppose to hold him innocent before the eyes of the court?
In this case, it’s taken more than a week to go through hundreds of potential jurors to find just the right mixture of people who feel they can be impartial and objective in this case and put all of that other stuff to the side.
Here are the facts:
Every federal defendant under the law is presumed innocent, which means they come into a trial with a clean slate. In this case, it is the government’s responsibility to prove to the jury that Kilpatrick, Ferguson father Kilpatrick and Mercado is guilty behind a shadow of a doubt. We’ve heard this a million times but how often is that the case?
Media are supposed to withhold personal information about potential jurors because of right to privacy. They can’t take pictures or reveal information about where they work, go to school or even if they are chosen to be on the particular jury. Once they have been chosen, it’s not holds barred. Jurors are asked to be as truthful and honest as they can about the most intimate parts of their lives and something their family’s lives. Kwame Kilpatrick’s attorney, James Thomas, can be a bit ruthless when getting the truth out of potentials. When a 30-something unemployed black woman hit the jury box for questioning, he asked her blank, “From your questionnaire, it seems like you really don’t want to do this? Her response, “No, I don’t want to be here.”
By the second week, folks in the press section and those general public people seated in the back row are friendly to each other so there’s more chatter during breaks and in the bathrooms. For a trial where the judge instructs everyone NOT to talk about, there seems to be a lot of conversation about this trial outside of the confines of the courtroom. This is a No, NO.
Obviously it’s OK to talk to the lawyers and even defendants during a 15-min break because an elderly, 70s, chocolate woman dress in a tight-fitted black jean jacket and pants with the reddest lipstick in the beauty supply store went to where Kilpatrick was standed and offered him a big hug. Her words, “There are some of us in Detroit that still love you Kwame.” He accepted that hug.
What went down this week that was powerful.
Some minorities in this country feel that the burden of discrimination falls soley on their shoulders, as if we are the only ones that have experience discrimination. This week, a potential juror, - white women in her mid-50s – made it clear that black people were not the only ones that experienced it. She told of a story while working at one of the Big Three, in a situation where she was the only woman and how she systematically rooted for other women to get contracts and felt that had she NOT pulled other women along with her, it would not have been done in a male – dominated environment. The story made everyone in the courtroom pause that day.
Until next week, your Vibe court reporter, Darralynn Hutson ( @DarralynnHuston )
The Final twelve