Jury seated in trial of former city council member - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Jury seated in trial of former city council member

A jury was seated Monday in the federal bribery trial of former Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford.

With a close haircut and a clean shave, Ford walked into Federal Court with his wife at his side.

Federal prosecutors claim their cameras captured Ford taking bribe money from a longtime friend and lobbyist Joe Cooper.

Ford and his attorney maintained there was no bribery.

"He's got a lot of fight in him," attorney Michael Scholl said. "He's very adamant about his innocence.  He's broken no laws and he's ready to come in here and do battle this week."

Before jury selection began, Scholl objected to Judge Samuel Mays about the prosecution's secretly taped video.  Scholl argued an FBI agent describes on tape that Cooper is on his way to make bribery payments to Ford.

Scholl said the agent had no right to conclude it was bribery because that is for the jury to decide.

Judge Mays said he would have to see the video to make a decision, but didn't think agent's statements would influence a jury since the jury knows the video is just theory, not evidence.
 
"We're confident about our case, and we're going to let that play out in court," Scholl said.

The tapes chronicle four meetings between Cooper and Ford.  Prosecutors say one shows Ford putting cash in his pocket, while another tape shows him tapping the money on a table and sliding it into a sheet of paper.  The prosecution claims Ford repeatedly said on tape he'd influence the council's vote to remove the billboard moratorium.

Later Monday morning, 105 potential jurors filed in to fill every seat in Judge Mays' courtroom.  The judge read them instructions, adding that they would not be sequestered.  After they were read the full 13 page indictment against Ford, jury selection began.

Early Monday evening, the jury was seated.  Judge Mays said he anticipated the trial would last three to four days.


Notes from Monday's hearing can be found in the space below:

9:20AM

Trying the case against Ford will be Assistant U.S. Attorneys Larry Laurenzi and Tom Colthurst.

Shortly after 9:00am Monday, both men, along with U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, poked their head into the courtroom. 

A short time later, Ford walked in.  Ford's attorney, Mike Scholl, said his client has "a lot of fight in him."  Scholl said he expected the trial to last approximately one week, and said he felt they had a good case.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin shortly, when the courtroom will be filled with more than 100 potential jurors.


10:20am

Proceedings started this morning with both sides discussing procedures for the trial.

Scholl objected briefly to the wording on written transcripts of undercover video recordings that will be given to jury members.  In the recordings, an agent can be heard referring to Ford's actions as bribery.  Scholl objected to that wording, saying Ford's alleged bribery is what the trial will determine.  Judge Samuel Mays said he had no problem with the agent's words, because they weren't a conclusion, rather just a statement.

Ford was quiet and calm as proceedings began, with a hopeful look on his face.  Ford's wife had tissues in her hands, and could be heard sniffling at times.  When the judge asked potential witnesses to leave the room, she was among those who left.

Jury selection will now begin from a pool of 105 potential jurors.  A total of 12 jurors and one alternate will be chosen.  After a jury is seated, officials believe the trial will last three to four days.  Judge Mays will be off on Friday.


12:00pm

A video update has been posted in the player to the right of this story.


5:40pm

Most of the day has been consumed by the jury selection process.  Early this evening, a jury was seated.  The trial should begin Tuesday morning.


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