DETROIT (WXYZ) - Several attorneys in the Kilpatrick corruption trial were clearly frustrated as jury selection continued today. Judge Nancy Edmunds took over the majority of the questioning – only allowing the lawyers to ask limited follow up questions.
“In federal court it’s very common for the judge to do most of the questioning in voir dire, during jury selection. However in a case of this magnitude, it is not common. In a case of this magnitude typically the attorneys are allowed to ask questions. But it may be that the judge is concerned that the questioning is going a little bit too far,” said Channel 7 Jury Selection Legal Analyst Anthony Chambers.
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long time friend Bobby Ferguson, and ex-Detroit Water Department Director Victor Mercado are all charged with racketeering – accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.
Forty jurors have been qualified so far, 10 of them are African American. One potential juror is currently missing and has not reported to the court.
Questions about race and affirmative action continue to play a major role, as the judge tries to establish a pool of 66 jurors. One man said he had strong feelings on Affirmative Action, because his daughter was once up for a scholarship that was awarded to an African American student instead. Kilpatrick seemed visibly annoyed with some of the man’s answers – but the man stayed in the jury pool.
Ferguson defense lawyer Mike Rataj says the lawyers appreciate it when the jurors share their true feelings.
“One gentleman said my father was a racist, and we were kind of raised [like that], and I am not like that now… so these are honest answers and that’s what we want. We want people to be honest, you can’t criticize them for being honest,” said Rataj.
One African American woman had said on her questionnaire that she felt Kilpatrick had done a lot for the city of Detroit, but she also thought that he quote “probably messed it up for another young black person to become mayor again.”
At one point she told federal prosecutors that she could not come to a guilty verdict – but it appeared she was confused by the question, because she later changed her answer to say if the government met it’s burden of proof, she could decide on a guilty verdict.
Meanwhile, the juror’s personal opinions of the former mayor continue to be examined – especially questions about what impression they have of Kilpatrick after all of the media coverage.
During the questioning, Rataj was cut off by Judge Edmunds and told to move on. That juror was eventually passed through to the next round of jury selection and Rataj appeared outraged.
“Once they’re sworn in as a juror, no matter what they’re opinion is, they’ve got to put that to the side, and they’ve got to decide the evidence. It’s not really about their opinion, it’s about the evidence. And does the evidence substantiate the allegations in this case or not, and if they don’t – he should be acquitted,” said Chambers.
Also today, an African-American jury candidate told the court that he believes blacks are unfairly targeted by law enforcement agencies, citing a friend of his who he said was frequently pulled-over by police for no apparent reason. The friend was ultimately jailed.
The potential juror insisted those feelings would not interfere with his view of the prosecution's case against Kilpatrick, saying he "believes in accountability" and would not hesitate to convict any of the defendants.
That possible juror was moved on to the next round of selection.
During a break in questioning this morning, Kwame Kilpatrick was greeted by a supporter who came to wish him well in court.
After shaking his hand and thanking him for coming, Kilpatrick smiled.
"I need you in there," he said.
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