, Corbin, KY

April 8, 2013

Chief responds to Davenport case

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By John L. Ross, Staff Writer

After the dismissal of Lloyd Davenport’s DUI case Thursday, Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird carried a mixed bag of responses on the decision.

“Even though I am not happy with the decision, nor do I think the decision was correct — I am glad it’s over,” Bird said Friday.

Davenport, who was arrested by WPD Officer Brandon White in May 2010 and charged with DUI, walked out of the Whitley County District courtroom Thursday — without the DUI charge on his record.

“Now the department can move on, and I can stop paying overtime for all these court appearances,” Bird said. “But again, this should’ve been handled within a year.”

The timeline for this case was extensive, which included two county attorneys and ultimately a special prosecutor appointed by the Kentucky Attorney General’s office — at the request of Bird and Officer White.

Paul Winchester first represented the county, and then it was in the hands of former County Attorney Don Moses, who recused himself from the case on Dec. 7, 2011 — the day for the trial. Moses claimed he was related to the defendant.

Judge Fred White, in a decision the judge said Thursday he regretted, dismissed the case on the grounds Davenport’s defense never received evidence.

Enter Special Prosecutor Allen Trimble, who filed motions stating that was incorrect and pushed to have the case reinstated.

It was, and the next jury trial date was April 4, 2012 — and for reasons unknown it was continued to Aug. 8, 2012.

On that day, another continuance came down the line — this time Trimble’s wife happened to be on the jury panel.

A new date was set for Feb. 6, however, the arresting officer was involved in a family emergency.

The last trial date was set for March 6 — and while all the parties involved were on hand that day, it was unclear why the trial was moved. In fact, nothing was ever said in the courtroom that day, and only a call to the clerk’s office confirmed the case was continued for trial to Wednesday.

Bird and Officer White were both on hand for the scheduled trial, as was Davenport’s defense attorney Jane Butcher, Davenport, and Trimble, but what was absent was a jury panel.

After some animated discussion and a review of case studies provided to the court by Butcher, Judge White sustained Butcher’s first motion — to dismiss the case on the grounds the judge had no jurisdiction to reinstate the case because the Commonwealth failed to meet deadlines in filing paperwork for the reinstatement.

“My officers did their job that night, as far as I’m concerned,” Bird said. “They took a DUI off the street before he hit some innocent bystander.”

“The District Court system failed, in my opinion,” Bird said, adding he holds no grudge against Butcher. “She was doing her job — she was defending her client.”

However, he does question the consistency of Judge White’s decisions. During Thursday’s proceedings, it was made clear that evidence must be provided to the defense attorney directly from the Commonwealth attorney’s office — not from members of law enforcement. During Davenport’s case, the Williamsburg Police Department sent evidence by certified mail to Butcher’s office. “Mr. Trimble argued that’s an acceptable practice,” Bird said. “But the judge disagreed.”

But Bird said that just two weeks ago, Judge White ordered his department to provide evidence to another defense attorney. “He is on the record (asking us) to hand deliver our road check policies to (a defense attorney),” Bird said. “(Thursday’s ruling) is coming from the same judge — he’s contradicting what he did in the courtroom.”

He added he has always provided evidence to defense attorneys, saying it is common practice.

“I think the judge is totally incorrect in that decision about discovery,” Bird said. “Why does it matter how the defense gets discovery, as long as they have it.”

As far as Judge White’s jurisdiction argument, Bird said “all that was just smoke.”

“That should’ve been argued then when the case was reinstated,” he said.

He also noted that no jury member ever entered the courtroom.

“This was never intended to go to trial,” Bird added, saying that after making a few inquiries, he learned the jury was scheduled to appear “at three different times.”

“The subpoena said 9,” Bird said. “When I got here, the secretary said I ‘was here awfully early — the jury won’t be here until 1.’”

Then later, he was told the jury would be there at 10. A phone call to the clerk’s office got him an answer of 11.

But the final result was still the same — case dismissed. “My understanding is there is no where else to go on this case,” Bird said. “But I am glad it’s over.”