Kwame Kilpatrick on Trial: Day 2
By Alexandra Harland
Kwame Kilpatrick had nothing to say when he arrived at federal court Friday morning for the second day of jury selection in his corruption case.
Proceedings are before Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds. She and four defense attorneys are questioning potential jurors, who won't be identified by name in court.
The prosecution has also hired Richard Gabriel, who is from Los Angeles, to be a consultant for the trial. He's an expert at picking jury members in high profile cases. He worked on the OJ Simpson murder case and for the defense in the Casey Anthony case.
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, ex-city water boss Victor Mercado and Kilpatrick pal Bobby Ferguson are accused of a sweeping corruption scheme. The Kilpatricks are accused of shaking down contractors who wanted business or favors from Detroit city hall. The government calls it the "Kilpatrick enterprise."
All have pleaded not guilty. Kilpatrick was mayor until fall 2008 when he resigned in an unrelated scandal.
The judge wants 18 jurors and alternates in time for opening statements Sept. 14.
UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. End of day
If the tone of jury selection could be characterized any way today, it would be as a slow and grueling process. Lawyers questioned a total of 14 possible jurors throughout the day. To this point, 8 jurors were called back for next week while 6 others were excused. One who was excused had a possible conflict of interest with the case, while 2 more had scheduling conflicts. The final juror on the day was questioned briefly in sidebar and asked to return next week.
Judge Edmunds did admonish defense counsel to tighten up their questioning of jurors so as not to overlap and thus speed up jury selection.
At one point during a particularly long period of juror questioning, Bobby Ferguson, slumped down in his chair with his head resting comfortably on the headrest, actually appeared to be open-mouthed catnapping. When he did snap awake again during a sidebar with a juror, he laughed and joked with his co-defendants.
While jurors appeared to come from all walks of life today, most seemed to indicate they rarely watched news and thus weren't very likely to be swayed by coverage of the case. And while most acknowledged knowing who Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson were before the case, most said they only knew Bernard as Kwame's father and had no knowledge of Victor Mercado before the jury process started.
Jury selection reconvenes in court Monday at 9 a.m.
UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.
This afternoon after 1:45 p.m. – they moved three jurors through. They excused one white male because of a conflict of interest with a past job.
11 have been excused – 18 have made it through.
UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.
By early afternoon on the second day of jury selection in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial, four more potential jurors were moved on to the next round and three were excused. Amongst the dismissed jurors was an African-American male who had conflicts with the timing of the trial. To date, there are no African-American jurors who have moved on to a pool of 66 potential jurors that will ultimately be whittled down to 12 jurors and six alternates.
Kwame Kilpatrick and co-defendants Bernard Kilpatrick, his father, contractor Bobby Ferguson and former Water and Sewerage Department Head Victor Mercado all listened carefully throughout morning proceedings as lawyers questioned potential jurors. Kwame, in a sleek, dark pinstripe suit, and Ferguson, in a beige suit, would occasionally glance at each other and smile and even sat next to each other at one point as lawyers convened with the judge and a juror during a sidebar.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds introduced sidebars for sensitive personal information to jury selection today to ensure that juror privacy would be upheld.
Defense lawyers concentrated on lines of questioning that would expose juror's possible biases or perceptions of racial discrimination. The challenge defense counsel obviously faces is sitting a jury that has untainted previous views on the defendants and is sensitive to concerns of racial discrimination. So far only one minority, an Asian male, has moved on to next week.
Most jurors claimed they would have no problem keeping an impartial, open mind to the evidence. One dismissed juror, however, never even made it to questioning by lawyers when he admitted that would not be able to get past his views formed from media coverage.
Final tally, 15 jurors in and 8 jurors excused.
UPDATE: 11 a.m.
In the morning session on the second day of jury selection, two jurors moved through to the next round and one was excused.
All three jurors questioned this morning were white males.
The man who was excused felt he had strong feelings on the case and couldn’t be fair.
Bernard Kilpatrick was the first defendant in courtroom this morning looking serious as he took in the scene.
Victor Mercado was next – he did not glance at Bernard as he took his seat between his lawyers.
The last to enter were Kwame Kilpatrick and a smiling Bobby Ferguson who entered together.They had been hanging outside the courtroom sitting on a bench chatting.
The atmosphere was light and collegial before the court proceedings began.
When Kwame and Ferguson entered the court room, Bernard got up and stood by his son and talked to him a bit.
When Judge Nancy Edmonds came in she introduced the new concept of sidebar in this case.
The side bar is intended to protect the privacy of potential jurors.
Any time personal information about a juror may be revealed during questioning, the lawyers and the potential juror all gather by the judge’s bench in order to ensure privacy.
White noise is played in the courtroom for extra protection –ensuring the information being discussed is only being heard by the lawyers and the judge.
A sidebar was used for two of three the jurors this morning.
Total tally so far:
19 potential jurors questioned
13 are in the next round
6 have been excused
About the author:
Alexandra Harland is a Princeton undergrad and has a masters degree in International affairs with Columbia. A Montreal native, she worked with the Daily Telegraph newspaper for a few years before transitioning to TV, when she worked at ABC News with Peter Jennings. Alexandra has also worked in newsrooms in both Detroit and Boston.