GLASGOW — A Barren County judge scheduled a hearing for this month in a criminal case that has raised questions about whether Glasgow Police Department officers handled evidence properly.
Glasgow attorney Johnny Bell filed a motion Aug. 27 in which he requested an order that prosecutors provide him with additional discovery evidence, citing claims from a client he represents that the GPD destroyed certain items of evidence without a court order and that female inmates from the Barren County Corrections Center moved evidence from GPD evidence lockers without proper police supervision.
Bell’s motion was filed in the case of Kenneth Arthur Smith, a Glasgow man accused of manufacturing methamphetamine and other drug offenses, but was brought forward on behalf of “Smith and all other defendants.”
Shortly after the filing of Bell’s motion, Glasgow City Attorney Ben Rogers and Barren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner issued strong denials that the chain of custody had been compromised in Smith’s case, maintaining that the evidence in Smith’s case has been handled properly.
On Aug. 30, Gardner filed a formal response that asserted that Bell’s motion had no merit.
A hearing that had been set for Monday to take up the issue was rescheduled for Sept. 24 by Barren Circuit Judge Phil Patton in an order filed Aug. 30.
Attached to Bell’s motion was an affidavit given by GPD Col. David Graves in which he claimed to have seen a “large amount of evidence” stored in a garage area of the former GPD headquarters without appropriate security or supervision.
Graves, who is currently on leave from the department pending the resolution of a misdemeanor assault case against him, said the evidence, which included several types of drugs, guns, knives and stolen items, was moved from an overflow room in the former headquarters to the garage area by female inmates.
Graves also said in his affidavit that GPD Chief Guy Turcotte had ordered the evidence to be moved to the garage area and then ordered certain officers to log the numbers of the evidence and then destroy it.
Gardner’s response laid out the details of the case that resulted in the charges against Smith.
According to court records, Glasgow police officers responding to a drug complaint on Nov. 4, 2010, searched Smith’s residence and found evidence suggesting that meth was being produced there.
Members of the Barren County Sheriff’s Office and the Barren-Edmonson-Allen County Drug Task Force assisted in cleaning up the suspected meth lab and collecting evidence.
A search of the residence turned up a cup with a white powder substance in it, another cup with suspected pseudoephedrine pills, a cup with suspected ammonia nitrate and lye and two two-liter bottles containing ingredients commonly used in the manufacture of the drug, according to Gardner’s response.
Law enforcement also found other chemicals and equipment used in the meth-making process, documented the evidence, destroyed hazardous items and released the remaining evidence to the GPD, where it was marked and logged into evidence, according to Gardner’s filing.
Amanda Miller, evidence technician for the GPD, stated in an affidavit that the evidence was placed in temporary storage Nov. 4, 2010, and transferred into permanent vault storage five days later. Miller took evidence to the Kentucky State Police Laboratory in London on Dec. 2, 2010, and then retrieved it Feb. 3, 2011, and returned it to the GPD’s storage facility, her affidavit states.
George Wells, a former evidence custodian for Kentucky State Police Special Investigations/Drug Enforcement West Branch who is now a detective for Gardner’s office, also gave an affidavit in which he said that the GPD followed correct procedures in handling the evidence.
Wells based his opinion on an inspection of evidence in the Smith case at GPD headquarters and reviews of the case report and the chain of custody, according to the affidavit.
Gardner argues that Bell’s motion did not indicate how any alleged misconduct affected the evidence collected in Smith’s case and notes that Bell does not claim specifically that female inmates moved evidence associated with Smith’s case or that such evidence was improperly stored or destroyed.
“These allegations were not made because the evidence in this case was handled appropriately by the Glasgow Police Department,” Gardner stated.
Gardner later argues that no grounds exist for Smith and Bell to raise the issue of whether evidence was handled properly on behalf of all other defendants.
“The commonwealth acknowledges the defendant’s right to question how evidence was handled in his case,” Gardner stated. “However, the defendant does not have the right to go on a fishing expedition for all other past and present defendants in the Barren Circuit Court.”