Jury members in Kilpatrick corruption trial break their silence - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Jury members in Kilpatrick corruption trial break their silence

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A FOX 2 EXCLUSIVE REPORT BY M.L. Elrick

DETROIT (WJBK) -- "It was like his soul left his body."

That's how one juror described Kwame Kilpatrick's reaction when the former Detroit mayor heard the guilty verdict.

They were the most important people in the courtroom, for what may have been the most important trial in Detroit history -- yet they never said a word, until now.

The jurors in the Kilpatrick corruption trial are breaking their silence in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with Fox 2 News.  They reveal what it was like to sit in judgment of the former mayor.

Jurors say they prayed for Kwame Kilpatrick and his family, but they couldn't forgive him for turning city hall into a criminal enterprise.

There are many things they'll never forget about this case, including the Kilpatrick's reaction to their devastating verdict.

"The shock hit him.  It was almost like his soul escaped his body," says Tanya, Juror number 7.

They were regular people with an extraordinary job of determining the fate of the former mayor, his father and his best friend.

Juror number one: We only knew her as a mid-level manager from western Wayne County. Now we can tell you her name is Jennifer.

Juror number seven: A saleswoman from Macomb County. Her name is Tonya.

We also talked with two alternate jurors: Shawn and Lisa.

For six months, they listened; they took notes. They felt the burden of responsibility and the weight of history.

LISA: This was a very important case.

JENNIFER: It was such a heavy decision to make, affecting three people's lives.

SHAWN: It was physically draining, mentally draining.

TONYA: Initially, it was frightening, it was frightening. But I think that's what banded us together.

Every day we studied them, searching for an expression, a gesture, but they gave us very little to work with.

JENNIFER: A lot of us acted a certain way in the jury box, just to keep a straight face, just to keep it simple and not have people read into what they thought we were thinking.

We didn't know their names, so I came up with nicknames.  Like "quiet one."

TONYA: My husband was like, what, quiet one? No, they got it all wrong. My nickname was trouble.

SHAWN: T-T-Trouble.

JENNIFER: Tonya doesn't hold back.

While their identities were a closely guarded secret, plenty of people knew who they were.

JENNIFER: I'd get to work and I'd head out to the back and people would yell out, 'Hey, were you the one that fell asleep today?' I don't want to talk about it! I don't want to talk about it!

Some of the challenges they faced were mundane, like the bug in the jury box.

TONYA: We were at first like, something bit me! Something bit me again. I'm getting bit all up!

SHAWN: Sitting in those seats, they could be unnnnncomfortable!

JENNIFER: We would stress eat like crazy. We ate all the time. We were just bringing in food all the time.

LISA: I don't want to see another jolly rancher ever again. We ate so many jolly ranchers!

JENNIFER: Hearing those jolly rancher wrappers in the jury box scrunching.

No one could talk to the jury, but that didn't stop Kilpatrick from trying to make a connection.

TONYA: Kwame has the smile. If someone was on the witness stand and said something that seemed like bologna to him, he would look over at us and give us the (shrugs shoulders).

But one juror thought Kilpatrick and Ferguson were full of bologna.

SHAWN: I thought the whole time through the trial, him and Bobby were playing around all the time.

Tonya waves at Sean and says, "Next question!"

While the jurors couldn't discuss the case, even among themselves, they still felt a bond.

TONYA: When we finally became a group, it became us essentially against the world.  Because it was us, we had to make the decisions. We had to listen. We had to put everything else in our lives on the back burner. That was it. We knew this would be a part of history.

JENNIFER: It never left our minds. We would go home and were constantly thinking about what he heard that day or the day before now what we're going to hear. Some of us, including myself, would even dream about it. It was just constantly on. It just never left you. You never left the courtroom.

In the end, jurors say there was little doubt Kilpatrick and his cohorts had broken the law.

LISA: There was just too much evidence.

And it was the evidence they relied on, even though their gut told them Bernard Kilpatrick was guilty of racketeering.

JENNIFER: My personal feelings were I completely saw guilt there. But the evidence didn't show guilt; therefore I couldn't say he was guilty. I wasn't going to do that to someone.

TONYA: Did the evidence for me prove it? No.

M.L.Elrick: Everybody on the same page there?

ALL: Yes.

The jurors say they scrutinized the evidence so closely that they would look at the same material over and over before deciding on a verdict.

JENNIFER: Nobody wanted to see any additional prison time possibly be added to someone's life just because we didn't want to do the extra work to go through four or five more binders. Another two hours of our time versus a few years being tacked on to someone's life in prison. I mean, without question, you're going to take the time. Even though we were exhausted and tired, you just have to do it."

Yet even after they reached their decision, filled out the official verdict form, it wasn't quite over.

JENNIFER: That night I ended up dreaming that the form was lost, I couldn't find it.  I was searching and searching and I was just completely freaking out about it.

Kilpatrick's eyes were locked on the jurors as they walked into the courtroom for the last time. What they saw was a man still in denial.

TONYA: I got this. I'm going home. Y'all sat here listening to this bull just like I did. I'm going home. That's what I think he was saying. That's what his expression was telling me."

That job done, the jurors now say they now have a new mission.

TONYA: I did think it was time for people to actually see and hear exactly what we felt. We were there.

JENNIFER:  In the end, a group of people who are completely different can go in a room and look at evidence and come out with a verdict that is accurate and truthful, no matter what.  I think that was important for people to see that and know that it had nothing to do with race, it had nothing to do with personal feelings. We did our job.

Part Two of this three part story will be published immediately following M.L. Elrick's video report on Wednesday, September 4,  during the Fox 2 News show at 10:00 p.m.

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