by David M. Reutter
After nearly six years of languishing in jail because he could not afford a quarter-million dollar bond, a jury in Jefferson County, Kentucky acquitted Eugene “Red” Mitchell.
The jury’s September 18, 2019 acquittal of Mitchell on charges that he raped, sodomized and murdered Sheila Devine showed the prosecutor engaged in “an extreme waste of resources,” said Mitchell’s public defender, Angie Elleman.
While Mitchell’s DNA was found in Devine’s apartment, it was in “innocuous” places such as a vodka bottle he shared with her the day before she was killed. DNA evidence suggested it was Mitchell’s co-defendant, Guy Marcus Allen, who had sexually assaulted Devine. Allen is awaiting trial.
A prosecution witness told the jury that Mitchell was bleeding from his neck following the murder, possibly indicating a struggle with the victim. Video evidence from the store where Mitchell worked, however, refuted that testimony. The prosecution also failed to prove that Mitchell and Allen were in the apartment at the same time, and the evidence showed they did not even know each other.
“They wanted to kill me for something I knew I didn’t do,” Mitchell stated. “It is the most terrifying thing in the world.”
His acquittal was the second consecutive capital trial where a defendant was acquitted in Jefferson County. That indicates, said Steve Bright, former president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, that Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine’s office “obviously has made huge miscalculations” in the selection of death penalty cases.
The five years, eight months and 10 days that Mitchell served in jail took a huge toll on him. He was evicted from his home and lost all his property and is now homeless. While incarcerated he experienced severe depression, gained 100 pounds and had 13 teeth extracted.
Mitchell, however, is determined to move on. “It’s over with. I can’t cry over spilt milk. I’ve got to get on with my life,” he said.
Sources: deathpenaltyinfo.com, WDRB.com, Courier-Journal
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