Jury selection begins in former sheriff's retrial
Former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris was back in court Monday for the jury selection of his retrial involving theft charges.
"Do you know anything at all about this case?" asked Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to every juror in the pool that was interviewed.
This is Harris' second trial involving the charges. In August his first trial ended in a hung jury after they couldn't decide if Harris took $4,500 from the county to pay for cars that were actually donated. It was declared a mistrial.
"You have a duty as a juror to go back there and do the right thing," said Tony Clark, District Attorney. "You have to find either that he's guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or he's not guilty. And it has to be a unanimous decision on all your parts."
On Monday, attorneys spent hours questioning potential jurors to make sure they get a jury that is going to be fair and impartial based on facts and evidence in the tight-knit community where most people know the former sheriff. "Given the fact that he was the sheriff and did good things, should he be treated any worse or any better than someone off the street charged with a crime?" asked Clark.
Harris' attorney, Jim Bowman, asked the jurors to be fair in listening to witnesses and their testimonies, recalling events from years ago. "What do you think of somebody that tells you one story and then turns around and tells you another story? Believe them a little less?" asked Bowman.
"If you're presented two different statements at two different times that are opposite, you may question the truth. It's human nature," Clark added.
Harris continues to say he is innocent. "This is going to be one of the most important things you do in your civic life. And I promise you, it will be the most important thing you do in Kent Harris' life," said Stacy Street, Defense Attorney.
Harris was indicted on 10 felony charges in October including official misconduct, theft and assault. This trial only focuses on the theft charges, the other charges will be handled in future trials. This trial is expected to last at least three days.
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