PRESTONSBURG — The trial of five former prisoners accused of beating a fellow inmate is scheduled to begin again next week in Floyd County Circuit Court.
The trial had barely gotten underway earlier this year when an errant question and some legal maneuvering led to a mistrial.
Each defendant, Ivan Gunnels Jr., 31, of Eastern; Christopher N. Newsome, 38, of Harold; Kevin Woods, 26, of Allen; Matthew Ritchie, 28, of Garrett; and Stephen Jervis, 50, of Prestonsburg, was represented by his own attorney. Each man is charged with one count of complicity to first-degree assault in the beating of Terry Fisher.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Arnold Brent Turner said after the initial mistrial the prosecution had an agreement with defense attorneys not to bring up the fact the cell in which all of the men were housed, Cell 59, was a cell specifically used to hold inmates accused of sex offenses. Turner said defense attorneys did not wish for their clients to misrepresented as sex offenders in the eyes of the jury.
However, once trial began, attorney Will Collins, representing Matthew Richie, questioned a witness about the nature of the cell, and its purpose was acknowledged by the witness. The other defense attorneys all objected.
Turner said following the mistrial that it was unfortunate the way the case was set back.
“It’s frustrating on our end,” Turner said. “We did what were supposed to do.”
Following the mistrial, the defendants had to wait until a new jury pool was seated before they could again be tried.
On Aug. 10, 2008, Terry Fisher, then a prisoner at the Floyd County Detention Center, was reportedly found near death in his cell, after allegedly being assaulted by other inmates. One defendant originally named in the charges, Michael Rowland, died before he could be brought to trial.
Fisher, through his niece, Tina Green, is also currently involved in civil lawsuit being tried in U.S. District Court against the Floyd County Detention Center.