BOWLING GREEN — After six hours in a federal courtroom, a jury pool of 52 was struck down to 14 citizens who will sit in the jury box for the next eight to 10 days, deciding the verdict in a deprivation of rights case involving the Barren County sheriff and two other law enforcement officials.
Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, BCSO deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey face charges in the U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky of deprivation of rights under color of law, making false statements to federal investigators, witness tampering, falsification of a document and destruction of record, document or tangible object, for an arrest incident that occurred more than three years ago. The case is being prosecuted by Washington D.C.-based U.S. Department of Justice civil rights attorneys Roy Conn III and Sanjay Patel.
J. Guthrie True, of Frankfort, is representing Eaton; Buddy Alexander, of Glasgow, is representing Bennett; and Brian Butler, of Louisville, represents Guffey.
Along with being asked background questions to expose potential prejudices, members of the jury pool spent much of the day listening to Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. explain the legal process and the role of jurors in a trial. The most important principle for the jurors to remember throughout the trial process is that the defendants are presumed innocent until the prosecution proves them to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, McKinley said. "You've got to believe that or you just can't find them guilty."
It's not enough for jurors to go into the trial feeling neutral toward both the defense and prosecution, True said. Jurors have to assume the defendants are innocent, and the prosecuting attorneys have to present compelling enough evidence to change their minds. The burden of proof is on the government.