Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 30, 2013

12:55 AFTERNOON UPDATE: Attorneys make opening arguments in BCSO case

Glasgow Daily Times

BOWLING GREEN — According to a dispatch log used in defense attorneys' opening arguments Tuesday morning during the trial against Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, deputy Aaron Bennett and Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force detective Eric Guffey, one minute and 13 seconds is the entire length of time between the moment Eaton began a foot pursuit of Billy Randall Stinnett on Feb. 24, 2010, to the moment another officer reported Stinnett was being escorted to a police cruiser after the arrest.

In order to convince a jury that Stinnett suffered the alleged brutal beating at the center of deprivation of rights, false statement and cover up charges filed against the three defendants, Eaton's attorney J. Guthrie True said the government has to "stretch the timeline." Not only have lawyers and FBI agents had three years to pull apart and criticize the defendants' minute and 13 seconds of law enforcement action, but True said that a minute and 13 seconds was not enough time for there to be a case of unreasonable force on the scale the government is alleging.

True, Brian Butler, counsel for Guffey, Buddy Aelxander, counsel for Bennett, and U.S. Department of Justice civil rights prosecuting attorney Sanjay Patel spent Tuesday morning's court session delivering opening arguments to the jury in a U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky courtroom in Bowling Green.

Patel, who presented the prosecution's argument on behalf of himself and Roy Conn III, painted a dramatic picture of a group of teenage praise band members watching a violent crime committed by law enforcement officers outside their church window on a Wednesday evening in 2010.

"What Kaylee [Billingsley] and her friends saw that day was an image that they will never be able to erase from their minds," Patel said.

Billingsley and other teenagers saw a group of law enforcement officers beat a handcuffed, nonresistant Stinnett, according to the prosecution's allegations, and the government's witnesses will corroborate that story throughout the trial.

As defense attorneys of individual clients facing individual charges, Guthrie, Butler and Alexander took turns poking holes in the government's case and the FBI's investigative process as a whole, but also reminding the jury that their client didn't necessarily do the same thing as another defendant or witness. Guffey, Butler argued, was not in a brown uniform like officers described by the teenage witnesses, and after handcuffing Stinnett, Guffey left the immediate scene to try to move his truck. Neither Guffey nor Bennett were carrying an asp baton, both their attorneys said, so they could not be responsible for the baton marks on Stinnett's body.

Initially facing off against Stinnett one-on-one, Eaton was scared and only used the force he considered necessary to subdue a dangerous criminal, True said in his defense of Eaton's actions as a law enforcement officer.

Jurors have not yet seen any evidence in the case, as information and exhibits given by attorneys during opening arguments are not legally considered evidence. However, each defense attorney argued that at the end of the trial, the evidence will show that none of the defendants did anything outside their duties as law enforcement officers.

"The evidence is going to show that there was only one guilty party out there that day, and it was Billy Randall Stinnett," True said.