A fresh set of jurors — this time eight men — will try to decide whether Bourbon County Deputy Sheriff Ed Rodgers acted reasonably two years ago when he shot an unarmed man in a darkened field.
The civil case is being brought by the wounded man's widow, Rhonda Brewer
Her husband, Robert Brewer, did not die as a result of injuries he suffered on Sept. 7, 2007, when he and Rodgers were alone during the altercation off Coulthard Lane. Brewer died in February 2009.
The federal case, brought in U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman's courtroom in Lexington, alleges that Rodgers used excessive force against Brewer, thus denying Brewer his constitutional rights that night. It further alleges that Rodgers and another Bourbon County deputy, Robert Guy Turner, were indifferent to Brewer's medical needs after the shooting. Bourbon County Sheriff Mark Matthews is included in the suit. The plaintiffs allege that he failed to adequately train the deputies.
A jury last summer was unable to reach a verdict in the case.
Attorney Ed Cooley's opening remarks framed the case according to Robert Brewer. He said it was a case about police overstepping their bounds even before they arrived on the scene and of "bravado" when they got there.
He presented the interests of a citizen, he said, who had had a leg amputated as a young man and had recently separated from his wife. He admitted that Brewer had been drinking for most of the day in question and that the sheriff's department had been called out on a "welfare call" by a concerned neighbor.
But, Cooley said, when Rodgers arrived, Brewer was on already on the ground, his prosthetic leg propped against a large tree. He said Rodgers shot at him without suitable provocation.
Cooley said he would prove that Brewer had committed no crimes that day and that he had no weapon.
Attorney Adrian Mendiondo's opening remarks appealed not to the history of Brewer or what was said on the police radio before Rodgers arrived on Coulthard Lane. He said, "it was about a moment." He said it was that moment when Rodgers was "praying that his head was low enough not to be blown off" because Brewer kept screaming over and over "I've got guns and I'll kill all you sons of bitches" and that Rodgers believed him.
It was that moment, said Mendiondo, when Rodgers "knew his car could not stop the bullets, when he got as low as he could in that car and stayed low" and he took a shot out his open driver's door.
"You can certainly consider other things," said Mendiondo. "But you can judge that one moment. Did the officer believe his life was in danger?"
After a short recess, jurors got to hear the Central Dispatch tapes that the plaintiff believes show Rodgers as disparaging and coarse, making jokes about Brewer's disability.
They also heard from Deputy Turner who was drilled by Cooley about his behavior when he arrived at the scene after the shooting.
Both deputies called for an ambulance immediately but neither rendered any first aid on the scene.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.