Politics

Updated: Kwame Has to be Frustrated Seeing Blacks Bounced From Jury Pool


September 06, 2012, 12:38 PM by  Allan Lengel

Kwame Kilpatrick

UPDATED: Fri., 10:40 a.m. -- The second day of jury selection began this morning. Three prospective juror -- all white men who appeared to be in the 40s and 50s -- were questioned. Two were kept on in the jury pool. One was dismissed because he said he had strong, negative feelings about the ex-mayor.  So far, no black jurors have been retained in the prospective jury pool.

Fri: 11:40 a.m. -- A black retired factory worker was called as a prospective juror but was bounced. The defense had concerns. He filled out a jury questionaire saying he thought Kilpatrick had been "bad",  and he heard people refer to Kilpatrick and company as thugs, gangsters and thieves.

 But the man told the prosecution he could be a fair and unbiased.  Still, as he was leaving the courtroom, he mentioned that he had three, pre-paid trips with his wife for the next three months. That seemed to make the other concerns among the defense moot. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said the trips were reason enough to dismiss the juror.

Fri: 1 p.m. Three more prospective jurors -- all white -- were questioned. Two were kept and one was bounced.  Jury selection continued through the afternoon. By the end of the second day of jury selection, no African Americans had been selected to stay in the pool. Jury selection resumes Monday at 10 a.m.

By Allan Lengel                                                                                                                                               Deadline Detroit

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick must have been frustrated this week  as he sat at the defense table in federal court in downtown Detroit during jury selection for his public corruption trial.

Kilpatrick complained recently that there weren't enough prospective black jurors in the jury pool. Lawyers will tell you race can matter, particularly in a town like Detroit.

So imagine what he was thinking Thursday when only two of the 15 prospective jurors questioned in court by the defense, prosecution and judge, were black -- and both wanted nothing to do with serving on the jury.

Both prospective jurors were woman who appeared to be in their late 20s or early 30s. The first woman said she didn't feel she should judge anyone. The second woman said she had a job with a catering company and serving on the juror would create a hardship when it came to making a living. She also said she had been exposed to media reports about the case. The judge dismissed both from the trial.

In all, the court kept 11  in the jury pool and dismissed the rest.  Of the 11, 10 were white males and females and one was a minority, possibly of  South Asian origin.  Additionally, a  woman who never even appeared in court was also dismissed for hardship reasons.

Jury selection will resume on Friday. Those who aren't bounced from the jury selection will go into a pool totaling 66.  From that pool, 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected. Kilpatrick is one trial with his dad Bernard, his pal Bobby Ferguson and the former head of the water department, Victor Mercado. All are black except Mercado, who is white.

Throughout the day, some jurors were questioned about their feelings on race, minority business contracts, and specifically their feelings toward African Americans.

"They're people like me," said one white grandmother, who was kept in the jury pool after extensive questioning. She said she harbored no bias toward blacks.

Another prospective juror, a middle-aged white man, who is a systems quality analysts, said when asked, that he couldn't say for sure whether the government indicted the defendants because of race because he didn't know enough about the case.

"I don't know details of the case so I can't comment," he said.

Some lawyers argue that African American defendants should be tried by a jury of their peers, which includes African Americans. Also, they contend that some black jurors are more willing to question the justice system than their white counterparts.  

Anthony Chambers, a veteran attorney, who sat in court observing up until the 12:30 p.m. break, said Kilpatrick and company want to have blacks on the jury. 

"It's discouraging," Chambers said of the dismissal of the two black jurors. "But there's nothing you can do about it."

Jury selection resumes Friday.



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