The Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial is turning into a dead man’s party.
At various points during the five-week-old trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers have portrayed at least seven dead people as character witnesses, alibis, culprits, bogeymen and bit players caught in Kilpatrick’s orbit.
The dead range from a federal judge to a casino and cable mogul to an alleged Ponzi schemer. The dead won’t testify or contradict but are serving powerful roles in the case.
Here’s a partial list — so far:
1. Don Barden: The casino and cable titan allegedly plopped $5,000 in a gift box during the “Splash of Red” party celebrating Kwame Kilpatrick’s 36th birthday in 2006. Barden, 67, who led one of the largest African-American-owned conglomerates in the country died in May 2011.
2. Abner McWhorter: Jurors heard a wiretapped conversation in which Bernard Kilpatrick asked for $5,000 from McWhorter, a pension fund businessman who later killed himself amid a soured city pension deal and hunt for $5 million in missing cash. McWhorter allegedly told his partner he paid a $100,000 bribe to the mayor’s pop in order to receive a $10 million pension fund loan. Where did McWhorter say the bribe money came from? An accused international heroin dealer. McWhorter, 41, committed suicide in Detroit in August 2011.
3. U.S. District Judge John Feikens: The “Sludge Judge” is a serial character witness in the trial. He praised Kilpatrick’s co-defendant Victor Mercado in an old court filing and the kudos got a prominent place in opening statements by Mercado’s lawyer last month. Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer showed jurors another letter Tuesday hailing progress made by the Water department during the mayor’s tenure. Feikens, 93, died in May 2011.