Kilpatrick trial raises question: Will race stop being an issue? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Kilpatrick trial raises a question: When will race stop being an issue?

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  • The jurors in the Kilpatrick Case

    The jurors in the Kilpatrick Case

    Monday, March 11 2013 10:25 AM EDT2013-03-11 14:25:47 GMT
    A jury will decide the fate of Kwame Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson. Jurors' responses to questionnaires may provide insight on the decision.
    A jury will decide the fate of Kwame Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson. Jurors' responses to questionnaires may provide insight on the decision.

If you missed it, last week Fox 2's M.L. Elrick was shoved outside of Detroit's Federal Courthouse by defense attorney Mike Rataj.  Why?  Rataj represents Bobby Ferguson who is accused by the government, along with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, on charges of extortion, bribery and racketeering.  Elrick asked him if he thought the government was racist.

The question set off an emotional response, followed by a shove and then a stare down that looked like the final moments before a prime-time boxing match.  In the end they walked away.

Rataj and Elrick later sat next to each other on Fox 2's Let it Rip show with Huel Perkins.  The two clearly respect each other and chalk up the tense moment as part of the end of a long day and a long run of four months of trial work.  In terms of the of whether race is an issue in this trial, the round table discussion concludes simply -- COULD BE?

Reporting the "shove" outside of court could be viewed as sensational, but that's not the point. What matters is that the issue of race still matters.  Just talking about it often leads to high emotions.

In a trial like the one involving the Kilpatrick's, the race of jury members could be a factor. It could also possibly be a motive for the government.  It depends on your point of view and the notion of walking in one's shoes.

When O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, people of all races were surprised.  White America was shocked.

The defense team in Simpson's case worked to prove that he was framed. They argued a bloody glove was planted to convict him and that the man who planted it was a racist.  The playing of an audio tape in court of LAPD cop Mark Fuhrman using the word nigger sealed his image and bolstered their argument.

Still, the 'planting of the glove' seemed hard to believe to most observers outside the courtroom.  But if you lived in a Los Angeles neighborhood where police historically abused power, overtly behaved in racist ways and were known to manipulate evidence to win a case, the glove planting was very plausible.

It boils down to what an individual's experience is.  

There is no 'bloody glove' in this trial but race could play a role in it's outcome and it could lead to a conviction or an acquittal.  In the end it's really about the experience each juror has had their own life and the judgments they've made along the way.

I once participated in a weekend retreat, a kind of progressive EST training, if you remember those from back in the day.  The first lesson had a group of 30 of us stand up and move from person to person to greet each other.   We were allowed to say one of three things: "I trust you."  "I don't trust you."  "I am not sure I trust you."  

I knew no one in the room, but I kind of made up my mind to say 'I trust you" to everybody.  About half way in I found it hard to say I trusted someone who said they did not trust me.  So I would say "I don't trust you," back to them.  After that I just went with the flow. I'd size someone up and say one of the three phrases after making some kind of judgment.

What was my judgment based on?  I knew nothing about these people and they knew nothing of me. Yet here we are not trusting each other.  It was purely on appearance. 

"She looked like my mother." "He looked like a bully I knew." "I looked like an ex-boyfriend who cheated,"... who knows? That was the point of the exercise.  We bring our own judgments and prejudices to the table based on the experiences we've had.  The rest of the weekend we worked on ridding ourselves of this process.

Race may be factor in the jury trial of the Kilpatrick's and Ferguson.  It may be the reason these men are charged in the first place or it may be a card the defense played to clear them of the charges.  It may sway the decision of a jury member and it may lead them to convict or acquit.

For the sake of justice I hope this trial is ultimately about whether the law was broken or not.

We all make judgments everyday.  When will race stop being part of the process?

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