By Keeli Parkey
The jury foreman in the trial of former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris has confirmed that an 11-1 vote to acquit Harris led to the mistrial which was declared on Thursday.
In a phone interview on Monday, Glenn White, who was chosen as the jury foreman, told The Erwin Record that 11 jurors, including himself, voted to acquit Harris on the charge of theft over $1,000.
After closing arguments by District Attorney General Tony Clark and Harris defense attorney, Jim Bowman, the jurors began their deliberations around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, White said.
The first thing we did was take a poll, and it was 9-3 innocent, White said. Then after that we talked for about 10 minutes and did the poll again. This time it was 11-1. Then the juror who voted guilty stated that they wouldnt change their mind.
White said he communicated the results to Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood via note.
We wrote to the judge. The judge wrote us back and asked if we could go home and think about it. We all agreed to do that, White said.
We came back in the next morning, White continued. The first thing we did was read the charge. We took a vote, it was 11-1, then we went into meetings and we all discussed it. We did that for about an hour and 15 minutes and it was evident that it was going to be 11-1.
White said the juror who believed Harris was guilty seemed like a very fair person and a very intelligent person.
This juror felt that (Harris) was guilty, White added. We all told that juror, Look, if this is how you feel, then stay with it. We didnt try to badger the juror or anything like that.
White said that after this jurors vote did not change after deliberations on Thursday morning, the jury again communicated that information to the judge.
I wrote the note to the judge that this jury cannot reach a unanimous vote, White said.
When asked how he arrived at his decision to vote in favor of acquitting Harris of the charge against him, White said: Its just that the defense proved their case, to me, that the cars were not donated. That was the main point of the case.
White also said that inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecutions witnesses led him to vote to acquit Harris.
The inconsistencies of those testimonies, to me, proved that the sheriff was not guilty, White said. That is what I told the jurors when we went in and talked and the others agreed. Whether each juror felt that that was the main reason they voted innocent, I dont know, but thats why I voted innocent.
White said Harris defense attorneys were able to refute the accusations of the prosecution.
I thought (Attorney General Tony Clark) did a good job as far as presenting his case, but every point the attorney general made, the defense had an answer for. Eleven of us felt that way, White said.
We all said it was sad that it happened over those dogs. And it did. As far as the proof goes, the bloodhound money was in the safe and it never left the county property, White continued. No one can prove that it left the safe, and the 11 of us agreed that if (Harris) hadnt gotten hurt, that this problem would have been solved long ago.
White said that some people have questioned why he served on the jury, because one of his daughters and Harris daughter are friends. White said he made the court aware of their friendship.
There is a rumor out there that Kents daughter and my daughter are good friends and that they spent the night, and they did, and I told the judge and the attorney general that, White said. I said, Look, these girls are good friends. Kents daughter has been at my house and my daughter has been at his. They didnt disqualify me and I appreciated that. I thought that General Clark and the judge felt I was an honest man
I told the truth. I wasnt biased. Anybody who ever lived here in Unicoi County knows Kent Harris. As far as Kent Harris eating at my table, that never happened. Eating out at a restaurant and him come up and pat you on the shoulder, Hi, how you doing? he did that to me hundreds of times and hes probably done that to thousands of people.
White described serving on the jury as a duty.
I realized it was a duty I had to do, he added. It was a duty that I really didnt want to do, but I did.
By Keeli Parkey