Joe P. Asher
The trial of two men charged with a hate crime began Tuesday in U.S. District Court in London.
David Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, are charged with kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington in April of last year.
According to previous reports, it is alleged that on April 4, 2011, the defendants lured Pennington into a truck with the help of two women then drove to a remote area of Kingdom Come State Park and assaulted him. The defendants were also charged with a violation of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). This legislation expanded federal jurisdiction to include certain assaults motivated by someone’s sexual orientation. Two women were also arrested in connection with the incident. Mable Jenkins, 19, of Partridge, and Alexis Jenkins, 19, of Partridge, have already entered pleas of guilty for their involvement in the incident.
On Monday, Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove denied motions made by Anthony and David Jenkins’ attorneys arguing to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act goes too far giving special protection based on the victim’s sexual orientation.
Tatenhove wrote in a 32 page decision released Monday evening, “protections extend to any person who is the victim of bodily injury on the basis of his of her sexual orientation. By its terms, this statute does not provide preferential treatment only to homosexuals, but instead provides equal protection to people of all sexual orientations, which would include heterosexuals. As the HCPA does not create classes of citizens, but provides neutral protection for all people, it does not give rise to any equal protection concerns on its face.”
With the motions to dismiss denied, the court moved on to jury selection on Tuesday.
Defense attorneys Andrew Stephens (David Jenkins’ attorney) and Willis Coffey (Anthony Jenkins’ attorney) joined U.S. Attorneys Hydee Hawkins and AeJean Cha at the bench as the individual jurors approached and were questioned extensively. The content of this questioning was not audible in open court.
Tatenhove asked the jurors if they had any connections to law enforcement or the legal system. Jurors were asked to consider any previous experiences with law enforcement or the legal system and to divulge if that experience would make it difficult to be a fair an impartial juror.
Jurors were also questioned concerning their views on whether or not drug abusers testimony could be trusted.
After several hours of questioning, the pool of over 60 potential jurors was narrowed down to seven men and seven women, 12 jurors and two alternates. With the jury seated, court was adjourned.
Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com