Being on a high profile trial has to be worst than being in a hostage situation during a blotched bank robbery. Most jurors are thrust into the limelight and have no idea what to do when they get there. This week, it’s again been all about the media exposure involved in trying Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, old friend and city contractor, Bobby Ferguson and Victor Mercado, the former chief of Detroit’s Water Department. Judge Edmunds not only had to constantly hear about this media exposure but she has to constantly spank the hands of the stations that are being so personal. The Detroit Free Press wrote an article about a former juror on the Bobby Ferguson case a few months back. In his earlier trial, the jury was hung 11 to 1 and declared a mistrial. In this article, that one juror was found to have lied about a few things during her interview; the first being that her husband had been imprisoned because of a drug charge and that they both had filed for bankruptcy which requires you to go to court. Months later and the daily newspaper in Detroit is still digging into jurors lives.
By Wednesday, the twelve jurors and their alternates had been chosen, a nice number of African Americans who are fairly young in their 30’s and 40’s, no Asians but Latinos and the other were White, young and old, are being represented. There was a mixture of male and female, suburbanites and city dwellers. There were saggy jeans and grey hair in the group yet the lawyers for the defendents was brazen enough to ask for a change of venue at the ninth hour. Thursday was wasted on hearing files arguments on why lawyers for Ferguson and especially Kilpatrick felt that there was no way this trial could be fair in a city like Detroit. The judge even brought in lawyers from the two daily newspapers in the city, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News; both thought the arguments were ludicrous, saying they were only doing their jobs and investigating.
Here are the facts:
Once the jury is chosen, the public has a right to access the names and addresses of all jurors and their alternates. The information is available in the public record, and transcripts of the jury selection proceeding can also be obtained.
The UCLA Law Review says “…The practice of obtaining information about jurors outside of the traditional selection process is not a new concept. Historically, criminal defense attorneys gathered information about potential jurors through private detectives, while prosecutors relied on law enforcement. These investigators, both private and public, were employed to learn basic background information on jurors such as age, religion, neighborhood, type of residence, employer, socioeconomic and marital status, and political affiliation. Because criminal statutes and ethical rules prohibit direct contact with jurors, investigators practiced their craft by talking with the jurors’ neighbors or conducting drive-bys of the jurors’ residence.
The rights of the press and the public to information about jurors, including their names and addresses, often clash with the right to a fair trial of criminal defendants and with the right to privacy of jurors.1 The pendulum has recently swung in the direction of affording greater weight to the privacy rights of jurors-at the expense of the public's right to monitor judicial proceedings.
I met a man, named Robert** who for all practical purposes was a courtroom observer. He was a professional having sat on between 20 and 30 high profile trials in the Detroit courtroom. He knew all the lawyers, security guards and court work staff by name and greeted everyone with a smile and handshake. Dressed in faded jeans, walking shoes, brimmed glasses and a polo shirt, he’s filled his need for courtroom drama right on that 2nd row.
Because cameras nor cell phones are allowed in the courtroom, accept for other lawyers, oddly enough; the only way for the media to get a visual of these high profile trials are from eye witnesses and illustrators who are hired by the local press to produce these drawings of what’s happening in the courtroom.
What went down today that was powerful.
Opening statements began Friday morning; first with the US Government who laid out a concise and 45-minute detailed attack that will be made on the four men seated at the fair end table. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow painted a picture of crime and corruption, political bullying that was as much a part of Kilpatrick’s tenure as his colored gator shoes and flavorful attire. There was video of his father from a hidden camera talking about why he couldn’t take $2500 cash in front of his girlfriend. Of course there were text messages, lots and lots of text messages between Kilpatrick and Ferguson and Ferguson and other staff members. Two bold faces shown on the inflated screen next to the judge were high-level aides on Kilpatrick’s city payroll; both of which were testifying against Kilpatrick.
Corruption, back stabbing, shake downs and Detroit politics all play a big part in the US Government’s evidence to bring the Kilpatrick enterprise down. These words were left on the screen when he brought his statement to a close “Let’s get us some money.”
Until next week, @DarralynnHutson
Let’s Get it Started….
***Robert*** is not his real name.