Eight people from southeastern Kentucky were granted new trials Wednesday after a federal appeals court overturned their convictions in what prosecutors described as a massive vote buying scheme that stretched over three elections. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves allowed jurors to hear some evidence that should not have been admitted and erred in his handling of transcripts of secret tape recordings that an informant made during the FBI investigation. The unanimous ruling means former Clay County Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle, former school superintendent Doug Adams and six other defendants will get a second chance to contest the allegations stemming from the 2002, 2004 and 2006 elections.
Writing for the court, Judge Karen Nelson Moore concluded the errors taken alone might not have hurt the defendants’ ability to get a fair trial. But, Moore wrote, the cumulative effect of the mistakes tainted the legal proceedings.
“Given that the government was able to paint an unfair picture of the defendants and offer direct prejudicial evidence that should have been excluded, we remand the case for a new trial,” Moore wrote.