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6th Cir. to Hear Kwame Kilpatrick's Request for a New Trial

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 02, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

He's behind bars, but Kwame Kilpatrick is not done. Not by a long shot, even if his case is exactly that.

The disgraced former Mayor of Detroit, convicted of a bevvy of corruption charges related to extortion, racketeering, bribery, and tax evasion, is serving a 28-year sentence. He may get a second shot at defending himself, however, if the Sixth Circuit agrees that the trial judge made significant mistakes in handling Kilpatrick's trial. Oral arguments are set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

What's the issue? A conflict of interest with his defense counsel, plus your standard assortment of claims of inappropriate testimony.

Conflict With Counsel

In 2012, on the eve of trial, Kilpatrick tried to fire his attorneys due to a pretty significant conflict of interest: his long-time defense attorney James Thomas and co-counsel Michael McNaughton were employed by a law firm that was representing parties that were suing Kilpatrick over the same alleged crimes that he was being prosecuted for.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the request for the last-minute switch, instead appointing Harold Z. Gurewitz as unbiased co-counsel. Gurewitz still represents Kilpatrick, and brought this appeal. Thomas' firm eventually withdrew from the civil case and was fired with the court's permission after Kilpatrick had been convicted., reports

"It was obvious to Thomas and Naughton when they filed their motion to withdraw in the civil case that lawyers of one law firm who represent opposing sides in the same law suit have conflicts of interest," Gurewitz wrote in a court filing. "Nevertheless, they continued with their simultaneous defense of Kilpatrick in his parallel criminal RICO case after they withdrew from the civil case ... "

'Spoon-Feed' Evidence

Kilpatrick is also arguing that Judge Edmonds erred by allowing FBI agents to testify at length about the content and meaning of text messages, rather than presenting the actual evidence, reports the Detroit Free Press.

"Kilpatrick was denied a fair trial because the court allowed the two case agents to testify 23 times and 'spoon-feed' the jury the prosecution theory of the case based on the agents' review of all the text messages, recorded calls and documents, (which) the jury never had the opportunity to review on their own and to use to draw their own conclusions," Gurewitz said.

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