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Jury selected for latest Harris trial

After seven sets of challenges from attorneys eliminating potential jurors, a 12-person jury was selected during the first day of former Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris' trial on Monday; two alternate jurors were also selected and sworn in by 5:40 p.m.
Harris appeared in Unicoi County Criminal Court to hear the questioning of potential jurors, however he declined to comment following the court’s recess.
The selected jury panel will hear a case against Harris for one count of theft over $1,000, which resulted in a mistrial in July.
District Attorney General Tony Clark said he is satisfied with the result of the jury selection.
“I think we did a very thorough job,” Clark said. “I think they were all honest and understood the process, law and their duty.
“I appreciate the fact the judge swore the jury in prior to them even coming up to give testimony because that didn’t happen last time. So, I’m very happy with the jury selection.”
Potential jurors were pre-screened by Honorable Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood as well as Clark and Harris’ attorneys James Bowman and Stacy Street.
Included in the first trial was a charge for criminal simulation, which was dismissed early into the last trial by Blackwood based on lack of evidence.
“[The criminal simulation charge] was already taken care of last time,” Clark said on Monday. “The only charge he will face in the morning is the theft charge. The rest of the charges are set for later on down the road.”
The charge for theft over $1,000 refers to $4,500, which the October grand jury presentment states Harris allegedly “exercised control” over.
The grand jury presentment states the related charge of criminal simulation involved “requesting payment from Unicoi County for vehicles valued at $4,500 that were actually donated.”
During a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Harris pleaded not guilty to the original 10 felony charges handed down on Oct. 14, 2011.
On Feb. 16, Harris was indicted on an additional count of official misconduct by a Unicoi County grand jury.
Harris currently faces a total of 10 felony charges, which include attempted aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, theft over $1,000 and seven counts of official misconduct.
The court will reconvene for opening statements and testimony at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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