Trial underway for former Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Wester
MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The trial has begun for the former Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy accused of planting drugs during traffic stops. Zachary Wester was arrested in 2019 on several charges, including official misconduct, fabricating evidence, and false imprisonment.
Monday morning, jurors heard opening arguments from both the prosecution and the defense.
“The evidence, in this case, will demonstrate and show that the defendant used the power of his badge to commit over sixty crimes against twelve members of this community,” State Attorney Thomas Williams said.
Wester is represented by Ryan Davis, a private attorney from the Tallahassee area.
Williams brought forward several former employees with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to try and show the jury Mr. Wester was properly trained in his role as a deputy for the sheriff’s office; witnesses, including several former sheriff’s office employees, said he was trained properly and knew how to operate and use the body camera equipment he was assigned. They also said he was shown and demonstrated that he knew how to handle, label, and properly store any evidence he collected.
Jurors also heard from a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that took Wester’s case before Judge James Goodman called for a lunch recess.
After everyone reconvened to the courthouse, jurors heard from several witnesses the prosecution called to the stand, including some that Wester had pulled over and arrested after allegedly finding drugs in their vehicles.
Joshua Emmanuel was the first to take the stand. Prosecutors showed the body camera footage wester recorded at the time of the traffic stop. They saw the defendant going through his vehicle before pulling out a bag containing a syringe and methamphetamine.
“I go from getting pulled over, not really sure why to learning my license was invalid. Then to having a search done on my car. Then to knowing or being told I’m going to jail for methamphetamine possession. I mean it’s just total confusion. I didn’t know what was going on,” Emanuel said.
Before adjourning, the state called Steve Vann to the stand. Again, prosecutor Williams showed jurors the body camera footage taken from the afternoon Van had been pulled over. And from what jurors saw, Wester pulled out a baggie that he claims was meth after testing the substance in the field.
“At first I was assisting too. I said you wanna search this car? You search it. Man you know search it all you want,” Vann said. “And I knew I knew my truck was clean. I knew it was.”
Judge James Goodman adjourned the court just after 3 pm. Day two of the trial is set to begin Tuesday morning at 8:30 am.
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