Deadlocked jury leads to mistrial in case against former sheriff
After months of investigation, days of testimony, and hours of deliberation, the case against a former sheriff ends in a mistrial.
Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris was charged with theft. But after examining all the evidence this week, a jury of 12 could not make a unanimous decision.
"Based on the jurors’ inability to reach a verdict in this case, the court declares a mistrial," Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood told the courtroom.
They weren't the words of closure many in the courtroom were hoping for, but a deadlocked jury put the trial of Kent Harris at a temporary standstill. "I'm disappointed, because I really wanted to get this case behind us. This has gone on for several months. The investigation was quite lengthy," said District Attorney Tony Clark.
Defendant Kent Harris said he was hoping to clear his name by the end of the trial. "You know, it's been a hard time, but you know I just want to the truth to come out," Harris said.
Harris said he stands by his sworn testimony that Lynn and Tom Colbaugh sold the county cars to pay for dog training. Harris added he believes he never did anything wrong with the money he asked for and received from the county. "It was obvious in some of those testimonies there [were] lies told and lies [proved]. When I testified, it was all the truth," Harris said.
But Clark believed the jury was essentially left with an ultimatum. "This all came down, in my opinion, to whether you believe Tom and Lynn Colbaugh, or you believed the sheriff," Clark said.
Come December, Harris, will face another jury, as prosecutors said they'll try this case again. "We now have a better understanding of how they're going to approach this case from a defense standpoint, so we may look into some other things brought up in trial," Clark explained.
But Harris said he is confident he will find justice in a new trial, despite bad blood between old friends.
You may remember that at the beginning of this trial, Harris was charged with theft and criminal simulation. We learned from District Attorney Tony Clark that the judge dismissed the criminal simulation charge, and it's not likely the state will try that charge in December.
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