Jury selected, trial begins in case where property owner allegedly fired on ATV riders
By Rachel Keller Collins
Marshall County Tribune-Courier
The Marshall Circuit Courtroom was jam-packed Monday morning with potential jurors and high school students, part of a Marshall County High School class interested in watching the proceedings. After several hours of jury selection, 14 were chosen and the Commonwealth began calling its witnesses after press time.
Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson said the trial, Commonwealth vs. Bonita Walker, is expected to take all of Wednesday and may even spill into Thursday morning as jurors will be tasked with deciding if Walker, 56, was justified when she allegedly opened fire on several ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and UTV (utility task vehicle) riders who crossed onto her property in Fairdealing off Salem Chapel Road on Feb. 19.
For her alleged actions, a grand jury indicted Walker on several charges: counts 1-5 charge her with wanton endangerment 1st degree, each of which is a Class D felony punishable by 1-5 years in a state penitentiary, "by engaging in conduct that put five individuals' lives in substantial danger"; counts 6-7 charge her with criminal mischief 2nd degree, each of which is a Class A misdemeanor, "by damaging another person's property." If the jury finds Walker guilty, she could face a sentence of up 20 years in a state penitentiary.
According to testimony given during the preliminary hearing in Marshall District Court, Walker noticed an ATV and UTV cross onto her property so she drove out to a place in the field where she could cut them off and allegedly opened fire on them using her .380 caliber handgun. She shot at the tire, the gas tank and the engine of the ATV while the rider was still on it and then shot at the front tire and front of the UTV, which held four passengers including two small children.
The riders, according to statements made to Deputy Chris Greenfield and Deputy Luke Rudd of the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, were unaware they had crossed onto Walker's property and when they realized the mistake tried to leave, but Walker held them against their will and at gunpoint until officers disarmed her.
The witness list for the Commonwealth includes Greenfield, Rudd, Travis Miller, Tyler Miller, Cody Pratt and Jessica Manly. The witness list for the defense includes Dr. Albertson, Christina Albertson, Eve Edwards, Tommy Jones, Det. Jeff Daniels with the MCSO, Ladonna Knoth, Tyler Miller and Bonita Walker.
Jameson noted there were two alleged victims listed in the grand jury indictment that were not on either witness list and Blankenship said it's because they are both small children, 3- and 5-years-old. He noted the defense will call the 11-year-old to the stand.
The jury pool was faced with a number of questions, first from Jameson, then from Blankenship and finally from Walker's attorney, Mark Ashburn of Paducah. Blankenship told them the purpose of the questions was to "make sure we have 12 fair and reasonable minds, further saying, "We want 12 totally non-partial jurors; that's a perfect jury."
The issues posed to the pool included whether or not they had heard/learned about it through the media, whether or not they had already formed an opinion in the case, whether or not it's okay to shoot a gun "with a bunch of people around" even if it's not aimed directly at a person, whether any of them owned more than five acres, whether any of them owned/rode ATVs/UTVs whether or not any one of them would give more credence to what an officer says because it's an officer saying it and whether any of them felt, due to a religious conviction, they were not able to place judgment on another person.