Roger Burdette trial begins with opening statements, witness testimony

Approximately 50 potential jurors made up the pool from which the final panel will be selected to decide if Roger Burdette is guilty or innocent.
Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 1:38 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 1:40 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The first day of the trial for Roger Burdette began with the selection of the jury that will decide his guilt or innocence. Opening statements and witness testimony followed shortly after.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2018, Burdette, 63, is accused of crashing his truck into LMPD detective Deidre Mengedoht’s marked police car on Interstate 64 under the Belvedere. He is charged with murder of a police officer, four counts of wanton endangerment, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and failing to give the right of way to a stopped emergency vehicle.

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Louisville Metro Police Department detective Deidre Mengedoht.
Louisville Metro Police Department detective Deidre Mengedoht.(KCRG)

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When the jury selection process began around 10 a.m., approximately 50 potential jurors were sworn in. Judge McKay Chauvin went to qualifications and stipulations and shortly after one was let go. The goal was to select a panel of 14 - 12 jurors and two alternates.

The jury pool make-up appeared to be mostly Caucasian, ranging in ages over 50 years old and an even split between male and female.

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Roger Burdette, 63, is accused of crashing the tanker truck he was driving into LMPD detective...
Roger Burdette, 63, is accused of crashing the tanker truck he was driving into LMPD detective Deidre Mengedoht's marked police car on Christmas Eve 2018.(Source: Media pool video)

A lot of time was set aside for discussions with jurors who felt they personally were incompetent to be a juror. One juror said it was because her daughter was emotionally impacted after driving past the crash. Another juror said the case triggered her because she lost her daughter in a murder.

Three jurors also brought up health reasons that would distract them from paying attention. Two shared they already felt Burdette was guilty.

“Guilty of a crime is different from involved in something bad,” Chauvin explained to the jury pool. “Or even responsible for something bad. Guilty means you’re criminally responsible for something bad, and you’re not guilty unless 12 people agree after hear all the evidence that the commonwealth has met its burden of proof.”

Chauvin also spoke about the degree in which jurors were aware of the case and instructed them that the only information they’re supposed to listen to is what’s shared inside the courtroom.

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Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin.(Source: Media pool video)

The prosecution alleges Burdette was under the influence of prescription medication and watching porn on his phone at the time of the crash.

“He disregarded the safety of everyone else that showed a disregard for substantial risk to the safety of others and demonstrated an extreme disregard to human life,” Kristi Gray said to the jury. “You will know that on Christmas Eve of 2018, roger Burdette committed the crimes of wanton murder and wanton endangerment.”

Defense attorney Ryan Dischinger argued in his opening statement that the crash is a tragedy, but not a crime.

“Roger was stuck in a spot to process everything very quickly. everything that we’re really talking about happened in the span of about ten seconds. So why can’t it just be an accident?”

The jury also watched two videos. The first was surveillance video of the crash, which was visible from the Muhammad Ali Center. The other video is body camera footage from a responding officer on the scene. The Commonwealth’s first four witnesses testified, sharing their responses to the crash.

The trial is expected to continue through the week.

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