Local Case Gets Retrial After FDLE Fallout

By: Cameron Taylor Email
By: Cameron Taylor Email

PANAMA CITY - The evidence tampering scandal involving a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist has affected its first case here in Bay County. A judge has thrown out part of the drug conviction in the case of Jeremiah Beazley.

Back in August 2012, Bay County Sheriff's deputies arrested Jeremiah Beazley on several charges including possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.

They seized 700 pills thought to be painkillers. Prosecutors sent the pills to the Pensacola crime lab for testing.

Chemist Joseph Graves handled some of the evidence. A jury convicted Beazley on five counts and sentenced him to 15 years.

Then last month, FDLE officials revealed that Graves had allegedly been stealing painkillers from the evidence locker, replacing them with over the counter drugs.

His arrest put thousands of drug cases in line for appeals. Several hundred of those here in Bay County.

Beazley's is the first local case. Thursday Judge James Fensom tossed out two of Beazley's five counts.

State Attorney Glenn Hess believes there's still enough evidence to re-convict Beazley.

"There are other drugs that were not tampered with that will sustain charges, we believe, so that's going to be a matter for a trial another day," said Hess.

But Beazley's attorney believes he should be exonerated of all charges.

"If the evidence has been tampered with, it's inadmissible and that the case should be dismissed or thrown out," said Walter Smith, Beazley's attorney.

Smith isn't convinced that Pensacola's crime lab chemist is the only one who tampered with the prescription pills.

"They concede that there's tampering on the Pensacola end. There may have been tampering on this end as well. We don't know. That was my original assumption was that something happened here with the evidence," said Smith.

Hess admits some of these cases related to the FDLE fallout don't stand a chance in retrial, but he isn't letting this one go.

"There are some that can't be saved and we've recognized that. We've identified those and those cases will have to be chalked up to a bad experience. However, this case, there still remains evidence that we feel is probative and valid," said Hess.

Smith says he'll be filing a motion for a new trial on all of the charges. If Judge Fensom denies that motion, Smith says he'll withdraw from the case.


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