In a to-be-published opinion rendered on September 24, 2015, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed Mr. Futrell and Ms. Lord’s murder convictions based on the trial court’s failure to remove for cause two jurors. Both Juror 27 and Juror 75 acknowledged a long standing relationship with the assistant prosecutor for this case, and both had been represented by him in the past. The assistant prosecutor was representing Juror 27’s son at time of the trial. In addition, Juror 27 knew and did business with one of the witnesses at trial, and had also been involved in reporting child abuse cases to the authorities in his role as property owner. Juror 27 expressed increasing discomfort at the possibility of serving as a juror and directly asked the court to excuse him as a juror. Juror 75 served on a committee with the assistant prosecutor and said he thought he would give the prosecutor’s case more weight. Due to the Juror 75’s significant association with the assistant prosecutor and his acknowledged bias, and the fact that the assistant prosecutor was representing Juror 27’s son, the trial court’s failure to remove Juror 75 and Juror 27 for cause was an abuse of discretion.
The court also found that the trial court erred by disallowing the defense to impeach a prosecution witness with the fact that at the time of his testimony he was on pre-trial diversion following his guilty plea to burglary and theft charges. The diversion agreement was subject to revocation, and as such may have furnished the witness a motive for favoring the prosecution. The Court found other errors, including that there was not sufficient evidence to retry Mr. Futrell on complicity to murder; the murder instructions were improper, and that the trial court erred by allowing the defendants too few peremptory challenges.
Appellate attorneys were Shannon Dupree (Jared Futrell) and Karen Maurer (Kayla Lord). Trial attorneys were Jim Cox (Jared Futrell) and Conley Chaney (Kayla Lord).
Contributed by Shannon Dupree