Two suspected drug dealers could be on their way to freedom as their Mantaee County drug case is at risk with the disappearance of 260 pounds of marijuana and two kilos of cocaine. The Herald Tribune ran a front page story today detailing the loss of evidence and the mess that has become evidence property management in Manatee County.
According to the story the missing cocaine and marijuana are from two separate cases and while Sheriff’s officials say they don’t really know what happened they placed some o the blame on a leaky dehumidifier. One of the issues in Manatee County when it comes to storing evidence is that the county does not use a singular location like many other jurisdictions. In Manatee, evidence is stored in three different facilities including a bank vault leased by the county.
The evidence stored in the bank vault was from old cases. According to the article there was poor record keeping of that evidence and the Sheriff’s office eventually decided to incinerate all of that evidence assuming it would never be needed. When The Innocence Project came to ask for a piece of evidence for DNA evaluation in a rape case, it was gone along with evidence that could have been used in a drug trafficking trial from 11 years ago when the suspect was recently apprehended after jumping bail.
With the recent loss of cocaine and marijuana, both cases against those defendants are in jeopardy. While the drugs seem to have been tested and weighed by the Sheriff’s office, it was never independently evaluated by defense lawyers, which may be enough to foil a conviction in both cases. Manatee County has started to use bar codes for their evidence and a central storage facility in hopes of correcting the problem that is jeopardizing the criminal justice process in Bradenton and Manatee County.
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