JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office destroyed key evidence in the case of a local man who is accused of firing a gun during a fight. Action News has learned that case may not be the only one in limbo because of missing evidence.
Private investigator Damon Jameson says the sheriff's office has shown a pattern of mishandling crucial evidence in local cases. His client, Samuel Whitaker, is in jail for beating a woman with a metal pipe. Jameson says that pipe is missing and could prove his client's innocence.
"There could be evidence or fingerprints that possibly involves another person in this case that was not charged and we don't know was."
JSO spokesperson, Melissa Bujeda, says an evidence technician is responsible for manually entering items into the computer system. She says there are no records that show the pipe was submitted. “There is not documentation that we can find at this point that shows that ever occurred,” Bujeda stated in an Email to Action News reporter Ryan Smith.
But the official Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report states otherwise. The pipe was taken by an evidence technician and turned in at the property room. When Action News asked Bujeda about the report she replied with, “We are trying to determine what occurred between the police report being written and the property room."
This is the second case in two days of botched evidence. JSO admits they destroyed evidence in the case of Robert Lewis, who was arrested in February for aggravated battery. The Public Defender’s Office says a blood-splattered tent and a metal pipe, coincidentally, were destroyed by JSO.
"It can happen once and everybody understands the mistake,” said Jameson. “When you have it happen 2, 3, or more times obviously that's a pattern of something that needs to be changed. This gentleman has been in jail for over a year because of this pipe."
Whitaker’s team wants the judge to dismiss the case due to the possibility of mishandled evidence.