In an unusual move, a lawyer in the Kwame Kilpatrick trial very publicly ripped into the judge after court on Wednesday.
Mike Rataj, one of three attorneys for Kilpatrick's co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, blasted U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds during an interview with the media, implying she's biased and is doing everything to help prosecutors ask questions properly and get in hearsay evidence that should be barred.
"For her to prop the government lawyers up every time they can't ask a question properly, for the hearsay, the double and triple hearsay that's coming in, it puts us at a huge disadvantage in this case," he remarked, according to a video shown on Fox2. "We're all frustrated because this isn't the way that it's supposed to work. The person that makes the statement's got to come in and testify to it so they can be crossed examined. That's the bottom line."
Rataj, a former college hockey player, who is sometimes referred to as a "pitbull", said the disadvantage in the case is like playing a 5 on 3 hockey game, with the defense obviously being the three. The former Marine is regarded as a passionate, top-notch attorney who can be a little tempermental, and is not shy about expressing critical opinions on various things, including media coverage of the trial.
Still, he expressed hope the defense can still win the case.
Fox2 reporter M.L. Elrick during his report Wednesday night said the judge may have something to say about Rataj's comments.
She's already taken him to the woodshed, or as he may say the penalty box, a couple times in this trial. I have a feeling that if (she)... hears about this, she will have something to say to Mr. Rataj and it's something that he probably will not want to hear, and we'll see if it could lead to sanctions or some sort of discipline. It's an open question, one that I think we'll have resolved very soon.
Alan M. Gershel, the former head of U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division in Detroit and currently an associate professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, told Deadline Detroit in an interview Wednesday evening:
"Frankly, in general, there's no upside" to criticizing the judge publicly. "The client may like that the lawyer is really fighting for him."
But he said: "There's no value. It smacks of grandstanding."
Gershel said if lawyers have a problem with a judge they should deal with it directly by asking for a sidebar or requesting a meeting in chambers.
"It smacks of grandstanding," he said.
Gershel said he doesn't believe the judge will react to the criticism.
"I know this judge very well. I think it will have no impact. She's going to continue to be fair. I think it will roll off her back." -- Allan Lengel