Judge Shoots Down Kwame Kilpatrick's Claim She Had a Conflict of Interest

May 23, 2019, 5:13 PM by  Allan Lengel

Kwame Kilpatrick

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's latest bid to set aside his 28-year prison sentence has been denied.

In a written ruling issued Wednesday, Detroit U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds rejected Kilpatrick's claim she should have set the sentencing aside and recused herself because she had a conflict of interest with his lawyer, James Thomas.

He claimed the judge and attorney had a personal relationship, shown by a congratulatory wedding card she sent Thomas.

"When James Thomas walked into Judge Edmunds' chambers, the judge was already seated at the head of the large conference table," according to Kilpatrick's motion. "He stopped, leaned over to the judge and said, 'Thank you for the lovely card for my wedding judge. My wife and I truly loved it.'"

Edmunds allowed the conflict of interest issues to "infect" the entire trial process, Kilpatrick claimed.

Kilpatrick, now 48, had tried to fire his lawyer before trial, citing a conflict of interest with a witness in the case, but Edmunds rejected the claim at the time and let Thomas try the case. Kilpatrick claims he got ineffectual counsel. 

In her ruling, Edmunds said the wedding card does not constitute a conflict of interest, plus Kilpatrick failed to raise that subject in a timely manner: 

Defendant was aware of the conversation that allegedly took place between Judge Edmunds and Defense Counsel prior to trial. Not only did he fail to bring his disqualification motion at the time, but he also did not raise his claim of impartiality at any time prior to judgment and sentencing. This alone renders his motion untimely. Moreover, Defendant did not raise this issue on direct appeal. . . .

Even if Defendant’s allegations are true and a wedding card was given by Judge Edmunds to Defense Counsel, this does not indicate that there was anything more than a collegial, professional relationship between them. Sending a wedding card is a “common” occurrence that would not lead a reasonable observer to question a judge’s impartiality.

► Read the 11-page ruling

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