Trials & Litigation
Deputy Sheriff’s Comments Taint Jury Pool, Delays Criminal Trials
Posted Sep 2, 2011 12:24 PM CST
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
Several criminal trials were postponed this week in Kentucky after a deputy sheriff told nearly 200 prospective jurors to punish criminal defendants.
Jefferson County Judge Charles Cunningham reported that he overhead the deputy tell the jury pool that his car had been broken and items, including a gun were stolen. The deputy warned, “what jurors do is very important because such crimes are very serious matters,” Cunningham wrote in an email to all district and circuit court judges, the Courier-Journal reported.
“This was not a discussion of how to protect your belongings … by not leaving things in your car,” Cunningham wrote in the email. “It sounded like a very pointed exhortation to punish anyone brought before them as jurors in a criminal case.”
As a result, juries or jury panels were disqualified in at least two criminal trials this week. Defense lawyers in two additional criminal trials set in Cunningham’s court next week have also indicated they’ll ask to postpone the matters, according to the Courier-Journal.
Although Jefferson County Sheriff John Aubrey said the comments were “inappropriate,” the deputy will not be suspended or disciplined. Some judges suggested at a meeting this week that Aubrey could create a video to convey information to jurors to avoid similar scenarios in the future, the Courier-Journal reported.