No Decision Reached in First Dozier Court Hearing

By: Bergen Baucom Email
By: Bergen Baucom Email

Marianna- If Monday's hearing was any indication, the state was going to have to work hard to prove a need to exhume some suspected grave sites at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Circuit Judge William Wright ruled that Jackson County could challenge the state's request to exhume the sites, then told attorneys for the state they need to answer a number of questions before he would rule on their request.

"Why do we even have to be here" Honorable William Wright, 14th Judicial Circuit Judge asked. "Reading the medical examiner's statute, he has the authority to investigate some of these deaths. It doesn't say anything about applying to the circuit court for permission. The medical examiner's statute was created in 1970. All of these deaths you want to investigate happened before 1970. So if we get passed number one, we got number two. Does the medical examiner even give me any authority to enter any order, or does it give the medical examiner the right to investigate deaths prior to 1970?"

The state claimed the exhumations were the only way to find out if Dozier who and how many bodies were buried on Boot Hill. They also claimed it would be the only way to know if Dozier staff members were responsible for the decades-old alleged murders of some of the students.

Judge Wright also questioned the state's stance that this was a civil, rather than a criminal matter.

"This is an unusual situation" Florida Prosecuting Attorney, Nick Cox explained. "There's not a lot of cases like this, so I really wasn't sure how judge Wright wanted to proceed on this. So, he gave us some answers today and he gave me some questions to research."

The state maintained it would be nearly impossible to prosecute anyone even if investigators found evidence of murder. And family members said they were not expecting it.

"I hold no hard feelings to anyone in Jackson County, the state of Florida, or anyone else for that matter. I'm simply trying to get closure" said the family member of one former Dozier Student, Glen Varnadoe.

Judge Wright said he wanted the state to answer his questions within 30 days, then schedule a second hearing.


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