In 2005, Detroit's then-Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was in the midst of his first major scandal in office. Media outlets alleged that he had made improper charges to the City's credit card totaling over $200,000. Yet, when it came time that year to announce his reelection campaign, his mother, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, stepped onstage to remind supporters of the power their loyalties played in her son's success.
"He didn't just get up in here by just comin'!" she yelled. "Y'all sent him up in here! Don't let anybody talk about y'alls boy!"
Kilpatrick had always highlighted his roots in the Motor City and commitment to local politics during his career. "I stand before you as a son of the city of Detroit and all that it represents," he told the crowd at his 2001 inaugural address after beating candidate Gil Hill by eight percentage points.
But if the influence of the KIlpatrick name once helped pave the way for him to become, at 31 years of age, Detroit's youngest mayor, that sentimentality seems to have worn off. Once the city's most powerful man, now a resident of Texas and twice incarcerated, Kilpatrick and his attorney, James Thomas, say that the ex-mayor can no longer receive a fair trial in this city.
The Detroit News reported that Thomas and the attorney for Kilpatrick's co-defendant, Bobby Ferguson, cited the media's exhaustive coverage of the trial, as well as comments from readers posted online, to argue that the trial to be moved. Since the case is being tried in the 6th District Court, that means Kilpatrick's case could theoretically be heard in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee or Kentucky.
Ferguson's lawyer, Gerald Evelyn, also referenced local media to warm of jury intimidation. He referenced this story from the Detroit Free Press, which examined the personal history of a female juror seated in Ferguson's prior trial for bid-rigging. The juror in question had failed to disclose details from her past that may have led to her dismissal during voir dire, including her husband's drug conviction, a state investigation into her child care business, and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The juror in question was never identified by name in the Detroit Free Press story.
"It's clear jurors have to be aware there will be consequences to a not-guilty verdict," Evelyn said, according to the News. "They will be investigated, their family will be investigated…It is impossible to get a fair trial here."
While U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds refused a request to delay jury selection so the defense team could prepare an argument for the change in venue, she did say she would consider the motion if it is completed and filed.
CBS Detroit said 55 potential jurors have been chosen to make up the jury pool of 66, including at least a dozen African-Americans and other minorities. 12 jurors and six alternates will then be selected to hear the case.
Ferguson, Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard and former water department head Victor Mercado are all accused by the federal government of running a corruption scheme during his tenure as mayor, dubbed "Kilpatrick Enterprises." The four men all pleaded not guilty to the feds' charges of racketeering, extortion and bribery. Kilpatrick resigned his office in fall of 2008 amidst the text-messaging scandal and has twice since been incarcerated. If convicted during this trial, he could be sentenced to up to 30 additional years in prison.