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After listening to witness testimony Friday in the change of venue hearing involving Spencer County Judge Executive David Jenkins, Special Judge Jerry Crosby said he would take the matter “under submission.”
While no decision on the trial location had been determined by yesterday afternoon, Crosby did set the trail date as Dec. 16 – well beyond the November general election.
Both Jenkins and Crosby are seeking re-election to their respective offices. Crosby currently serves as a district court judge in Oldham, Henry and Trimble counties.
During Friday’s hearing, the court heard from seven witnesses regarding the change of venue motion. Special Prosecutor Bobbi Jo Lewis had stated previously that it would be “relatively impossible” to receive a fair trial because of the defendant’s “level of authority and the potential impact” on the lives of possible jurors.
Of the five witness called by the prosecution, all stated that they were of the opinion that it would be difficult for the Commonwealth of obtain a fair trial. Half of the witness also expressed that the reverse was true as well.
“There’s a good chance that it might be hard to find six people that would be objective one way or the other,” said John Shindlebower, Mt. Eden resident and former Spencer Magnet editor. “I see Spencer County as not being the best place to hold this trial. I think the fact that we have a special judge and a special prosecutor speaks as to whether we can have a fair trial.”
Realtor Linda Greenwell also told the court that impartial jurors would be difficult to find.
“Some people will vote for him no matter what because he took care of their relatives” while working as a funeral director. “Others are intimidated,” said Greenwell. When questioned by Defense Attorney Mark Dean, Greenwell provided the name of one county employee that “thinks if he gets elected, she’s going to lose her job.”
Other witness for the prosecution said that since Jenkins has limited control over the county budget, delivery of county services, and makes appointments to boards and commissions, that the judge executive has the “power of retaliation” against any potential jurors.
Defense witness Rich Ornstein, an attorney with Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo), testified that while judge executives have the ability to influence spending, it does not mean that Jenkins would have “carte blanch” with county funds.
Other witnesses included former school board member Ronald “Woodie” Cheek, business owner Lawrence Trageser, Deputy County Clerk Abbi Nation, and Magnet General Manager Lynette Mason.
In his closing arguments, Dean said that witness painted Jenkins as omnipotent. “There’s a lot of politics being injected into this and I’m dismayed,” said Dean.
Lewis responded by stating that testimony shows neither parties can obtain a fair trial locally.
“How am I going to find someone to sit there in front of that man – in front of their county judge – and publicly say he is guilty,” said Lewis.
In response to witnesses testimonies, Crosby recommend increasing the number of potential jurors from the typical pool of 55 persons to as many as 150. Greater numbers would mean more choices if the trial location was set in Spencer County. Potential jurors could be asked to respond to a written questionnaire prior to their appearance in court.
Crosby told attorneys that he anticipated making a ruling on the change of venue motion “in a very short time” after he conducts some research.
Motion to revoke bond
Lewis filed a second motion Friday morning requesting that Jenkins’ bond be revoked on the grounds he violated the terms of his release. The terms stated that Jenkins would not drink alcohol while out on bond from his DUI charge.
The prosecution questioned Jerry Davis, local business owner and county animal control officer, about a recent incident at Evonne’s Sports Cafe where Jenkins was allegedly consuming beer.
“There were empty bottles sitting all over the table, there was beer in front of him and I even saw him hand one (bottle) over to another person. But I didn’t see him put the beer to his lips,” said Davis. “Everybody at that table was drinking and I assume he was too.”
Lewis said she was prepared to issue a warrant for Jenkins’ arrest.
Based on the evidence provided, Crosby did not grant Lewis’ motion. She reserved the right to pursue at a later date.
Jenkins would have the right to a hearing on the motion to revoke his bond and be entitled to show cause why the bond should not be revoked.
A final pre-trial hearing was set for Nov. 19 at 9 a.m.