DETROIT (WXYZ) - For the last six months, while the Red Wings, Lions and Tigers drew thousands downtown, a handful of men and women came to Detroit to watch a different kind of competition. This one usually came with a front row seat, and it didn’t cost a dime to get in.
It was the Kilpatrick corruption trial.
"It’s not the best entertainment," said courtroom regular Roy Nowitzke, "but it’s the best free entertainment."
Nowitzke has come to more days of the trial than some of the defendants’ own lawyers. Along with his friend Ed Franks, they’ve made the trip down to federal court almost every morning, braving long security lines that sometimes stretched into the cold.
"Why do you have to come here?" asked 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones.
"Sitting in the courtroom, you get to see the reaction of the jury. You don’t get everything from TV or reading it on the computer or newspaper," Nowitzke said.
Franks had a similar reason for making the trip.
"So I would know," he said.
"Not because someone else would tell me about it. So I would know."
The duo, who both live in Detroit, met in federal court three years ago at the corruption trial of former Detroit City Council staffer Sam Riddle. They’ve been coming to high-profile trials ever since.
"It hurts me as an individual, as a black male, to see a father sitting at a defense table with his son," Franks said.
Fran Hansen has made the trip to court, too, but hers is much longer: more than an hour each way. Her interest in the case dates back to her years as a high school teacher.
"I have an intense dislike for bullies and for bullying behavior," she said.
"And do you see bullies up in that courtroom?" Jones asked.
"I do. I do," Hansen said.
Like so many in metro Detroit, Hansen believed in Kilpatrick’s promise when he first ran for Mayor.
"I was one of those people in Southeast Michigan that was optimistic when he was first elected," she said.
"He was young, he was energetic. And because I was a teacher, the fact that he had been a teacher…it counted with me."
It counted for Franks, too, when he voted for Kilpatrick in 2001. But that was before he heard witnesses testify that the ex-mayor put himself ahead of the people he was supposed to protect.
"That someone could take money from a grant that was designed to help poor, innocent black kids...and there was no one to help them? That’s why I’m here," Franks said.
And just like the jury, these three have been weighing all the evidence they saw and heard. They come from different walks of life, but they all reached the same verdict: guilty.
The only jurors that really matters, of course, haven't reached their decision yet. When they do, 7 Action News will report it first.
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