BOWLING GREEN — Four hours into the first day of a federal deprivation of rights trial for Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, BCSO deputy Aaron Bennett and drug task force detective Eric Guffey, the jury pool has been whittled from 52 to 47. Waiting witnesses do not expect to be called to testify before the end of court Monday.
Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. took his time during the morning session in the U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky in Bowling Green to explain to the jury pool what their role is in a trial and how the jury selection process works. The most important fact for a juror to understand going into a trial is that a defendant is always presumed innocent, McKinley said, until the government prosecution team proves the defendants to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
"You've got to believe that or you just can't find them guilty," McKinley said. The judge read the nine-page indictment to the jury pool, but said the trial will be designed for them to learn all they need to know about the case.
"The lawyers are going to be putting on this trial for you," McKinley said. "You're the important piece of this puzzle."
Washington D.C.-based Department of Justice civil rights attorneys Roy Conn III and Sanjay Patel are prosecuting the case. Eaton is represented by J. Guthrie True, of Frankfort; Bennett is represented by Buddy Alexander, of Glasgow; and Guffey is represented by Brian Butler, of Louisville. Several jurors were removed quickly for family ties or friendships with the three defendants.
After those with close ties were dismissed, McKinley began asking the jurors a series of questions. Jurors reviewed whether they knew any of the defendants or attorneys in the case, talked about their connections with and opinions of law enforcement officers and gave descriptions of any personal experiences within the criminal justice system.