DETROIT (WWJ) – Jury selection in the corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has entered an important stage as candidates appeared in court for interviews.
Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds, four defense attorneys and the prosecution began questioning in a session Thursday.
Reporting from the courthouse, WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas said Edmunds announced right away that one potential juror, coming from Jackson, had been dismissed due to transportation and health concerns.
Nine other jurors were quizzed Thursday morning and, of them, two African-Americans were dismissed — causing visible reaction from the defendants.
” … I’m concerned about a cross-section of the community. There have been absolutely no African-American males that have come up, and two African-American females have been excused, for cause,” said defense attorney Anthony Chambers. “You know, financial hardships and one said she could not judge for reasons that appeared to be faith-based.”
“It’s unfortunate that sometimes you lose African-American and other jurors of other minorities, but the reality of the world is there’s not much you can do about it when it’s a reason for cause,” Chambers said.
Later in the day, Judge Edmunds ruled that media members will not be allowed to blog or report on potential jurors during the trial. WWJ’s Stephanie Davis said the ruling came after some details information was released online.
Potential jurors will not be identified by name in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last 18 weeks.
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, former city water boss Victor Mercado and Kilpatrick pal Bobby Ferguson are accused of a sweeping corruption scheme.
The Kilpatricks are accused of shaking down contractors who wanted business or favors from Detroit city hall. The government calls it the “Kilpatrick enterprise.”
All have pleaded not guilty. Kilpatrick was mayor until fall 2008 when he resigned in an unrelated scandal.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said that through the day’s questioning, we are now beginning to see a strategy of the defense.
“It appears that there’s gonna be the defense argument that Bobby Ferguson may have been given favors, may have been given some kind of preferential treatment because he is a minority,” Langton said. “And it is OK to give some kind of affirmative action or some kind of contracts to guarantee that minorities get work. It seems to be the theme going for the defense.”
The judge wants an 18-member jury, including alternates, in time for opening statements Sept. 14. Nearly 200 jurors are expected to be questioned.
Kilpatrick has said he doesn’t believe he can get a fair trial. Chambers says it’s too soon to tell.
Jury selection will resume Friday at 9 a.m.
Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for the latest.