DETROIT (WXYZ) - Race continued to play a major role on Day 6 of jury selection in the Kilpatrick Corruption Case, as 49 potential jurors are now qualified to stay in the jury pool.
After a potential juror said she thought that Caucasian people have done the same things that the former mayor and his co-defendants are accused of doing but don’t get charged as often – she caught the attention of federal prosecutors.
The African American woman insisted throughout the questioning that she could be fair, and that she would only weigh the case only based on the evidence.
The Assistant U.S. Attorneys asked Judge Nancy Edmunds to remove her -- saying that she gave the prosecution an unfair disadvantage. The defense vehemently fought back – and the judge kept the woman in the jury pool.
“It appears as though the government is not interested in having her as a juror, they went after her pretty hard and were very critical of this young lady,” said Channel 7 Jury Selection Legal Analyst Anthony Chambers.
Chambers says if the government uses one of their peremptory challenges on the juror, you could start seeing what’s called a Batson Challenge from the defense. That means the federal prosecutors will have to explain to the judge why they’re letting minority jurors go.
"You have to have a reason that is not race based for excluding a juror, and it should be one that is pretty good. This is a young lady who did indicate that she did have better things to do, but she understood her duties, and she’s willing to sit. But I think everybody there has something better to do, including the lawyers but you have to in fact do your job. And she’s willing to do that,” said Chambers.
Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long-time friend Bobby Ferguson, and former Detroit Water Department Director Victor Mercado are all charged with racketeering and conspiracy, accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.
One other potential white male juror openly admitted that he would have a hard time setting aside in his mind everything he had heard about the text message scandal. He said, “I don’t know how I can un-hear something.” When Ferguson lawyer Susan van Dusen pushed the retired electrical engineer on whether he would be concerned having someone with his mindset on the jury if one of his loved ones was facing prison time – he said, “I guess it would be a concern.”
Despite challenges from the defense, the man did not get cut.
During the questioning Thursday afternoon, when another male juror said he hated the media, and called reporters “vultures.” He went on to say there are “other channels not as depressing as local news.” At that point, Kwame Kilpatrick looked at the reporters in the courtroom and said, “I know that!”
A great deal of questioning continued to focus on race, and jurors attitudes on special point systems in the city that help minority contractors get an advantage when seeking city business.
“It comes up everyday, because we want to know people’s racial attitudes. It’s an important part of the jury selection process. We have African American defendants, and we want to know what people’s attitudes are towards African Americans… It’s part of the case, no matter how you slice it,” said Ferguson defense attorney Mike Rataj.
Jury selection continues on Friday. Judge Edmunds announced that she’s now only trying to get the qualified pool of jurors to 62, instead of 66. Once they hit that number, but the defense and prosecution will start using their peremptory challenges. The judge is hoping to start opening statements next Thursday.
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