Opening statements in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial are now scheduled for Sept. 20.
Originally it was thought that opening statements could begin as early as tomorrow. However, the voir dire process has taken longer than anticipated, with both government and defense lawyers taking their time with questions so as to weed out unwanted jurors.
Jury selection is expected to continue today, Friday and next Tuesday. Court will be in recess on Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah.
Once the pool of 66 has been reached, lawyers will begin the exercise of pre-emptory challenges to whittle down that number to the final 12 jurors and 6 alternates. The first witnesses could be called to testify by the end of next week.
Five more jurors made it into the next round of jury selection today. The breakdown of jurors moving forward included 2 white males, 2 African-American females and 1 Arab-American female.
There are now 45 jurors in the pool of 66.
While three of the jurors moved to the next phase without issue, two were challenged. The first was an African-American community assessor who said in court that she believed that “what the defendants are being charged with is nothing others of another race have not done before but not been charged.” She also stated that she believed that “sometimes people are or not charged because they are African-American.”
U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh challenged for cause saying that the juror appeared to be holding back on her answers and that the government would be behind the 8 ball with a juror whose mindset was that white people weren’t always charged. Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the challenge for cause even though she did agree that the juror was difficult to draw responses from. Ultimately, the judge felt that the juror had committed to be fair and impartial and allowed her into the pool.
The other juror challenged was a white retired electrical engineer . The juror had followed some media coverage and was the first to recognize Victor Mercado as the former Head of the Water and Sewerage Department. Under questioning by Susan Van Dusan, a defense lawyer for Bobby Ferguson, he admitted that he had concerns about his ability to put aside everything he had heard about the defendants and the case to be truly impartial. Van Dusen challenged for cause based on those responses but Judge Edmunds denied challenge saying that the juror was a thoughtful, conscientious person who would listen to the evidence and be impartial.
The other jurors moved forward included a retiree who thought Bernard Kilpatrick looked like “just another guy in the room”, a telecommunications saleswoman who felt race relations were improving and a student juggling 2 jobs.
A freelance musician and a school administrator were both excused this morning for professional hardship.