There’s the real world, and there’s the media’s interpretation of the real world. That was the message from lawyers for both sides of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s federal trial stated repeatedly Tuesday morning as the jury selection process continued. “You understand the difference between reality and TV, right?” Michael Bullotta, prosecution attorney, asked a prospective juror who said she got most of her news from watching local TV. “ That thing, that tube, it’s entertainment” he said.
The idea that media sources are negative entertainment that is biased against Kilpatrick was a theme in the courtroom. One perspective juror, when asked if she had an opinion of Kilpatrick, said she didn’t have one because she didn’t know him. She said her bad impression of the former mayor and Detroit came from watching the news. “I had a negative feeling about the image of Detroit and Mr. Kilpatrick … that I didn’t have prior to media—the entertainment tube,” she said. Ultimately, she said she could set her negative impressions garnered through the media aside. Judge Nancy Edmunds added approved her to continue through the selection process despite objections from the defense team.
Race was another topic that the defense attorneys asked nearly every perspective juror. While all of the defendants are of African or Hispanic descent, most of the perspective jurors questioned on Tuesday were white, non-Hispanic descent. They were asked how they felt about affirmative action, and whether minorities are treated fairly in criminal trials. Race and issues surrounding the trail are “blasted through the media like everything else,” John Shea, a defense attorney representing Bobby Ferguson told a perspective juror.
Even a few light jokes were cracked. When one potential juror said she lived an hour outside of Detroit and rarely tuned in to Detroit news topics, Kilpatrick’s’ lead attorney James Thomas pointed out that she didn’t confine herself to her rural home. “You get around,” he said to instant chuckles from people in the courtroom including members of the press. Thomas took a chance to throw a zinger at the press, “So they do have a sense of humor,” he said.