A Louisville Courier-Journal review of 200 hundred DUI trials found that when defendants in local Jefferson County request a trial by a judge — rather than a jury — the odds are good that they will go free. Since 2007, 73 percent of Jefferson County’s drunken driving defendants tried by a judge have been acquitted, compared with 45 percent of those tried by juries.
Most of those acquittals came in the courtrooms of three judges, who acquitted defendants or dismissed charges in more bench trials than the 16 other judges combined. Together, the three acquitted 83 percent of the accused drunken drivers they tried without juries. Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association and a former prosecutor in Utah, said that while there are no national averages for judge-tried drunken driving cases, the acquittal rate of Jefferson County judges was “shocking” and “mindboggling.”