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20 Sep 2012

IRCSO Det Starr Deserves Award For Honesty: Truth Clears Client From 25 Year Mandatory Sentence For Oxycodone Trafficking

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On March 25, 2009, J.A.R. was arrested for trafficking in oxycodone (28 grams or more), possession of under 20 grams of cannabis, and evidence tampering. He located Jeffrey H. Garland via the Internet and contacted him within days of the arrest.

J.A.R.’s car was stopped, heading north on I-95 through Indian River County, at approximately mile marker 146. The initial stop was effectuated by Deputy David W. Turner, Sr., who was participating in a MACE “drug interdiction detail”. The car was reportedly clocked at 79 mph.

Upon approaching the car, Dep. Turner reported smelling “the strong odor of burnt marijuana”. J.A.R., who was driving the car, denied any knowledge of marijuana. Dep. Turner conducted a search of the female passenger’s purse, and located 240 oxycodone pills. He also located, in the female passenger’s pants, a plastic bag containing a small amount of cannabis, as well as miscellaneous paper connecting the female passenger to several different pain management clinics in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

In the arrest affidavit, Dep. Turner asserted that the female passenger waived her Miranda rights and made a statement. Dep. Turner reported that the female passenger said they had obtained the oxycodone pills by doctor shopping in order to resell them. Dep. Turner asserted that the female passenger implicated J.A.R. in the supposed doctor shopping.

Attorney Garland conducted a preliminary background search on Dep. Turner. He immediately discovered that Dep. Turner had been terminated from the IRCSO for misconduct. Dep. Turner’s personnel file disclosed a pattern of reports which suggested that his assertions in the arrest affidavit should not be taken at “face value”.

J.A.R. was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years due to the trafficking and oxycodone offense – more than 28 grams. J.A.R. was, however, adamant that he was not engaged in doctor shopping or drug trafficking.

Attorney Garland set depositions for several witnesses directly involved in the stop. Dep. Turner could not, unfortunately, be located in order to serve him with a deposition subpoena.

During the course of these depositions, Attorney Garland discovered that an experienced IRCSO detective, Willard Starr, was present for the interview of the female passenger. Det. Starr described a statement radically different than the one described by former Dep. Turner.

According to Det. Starr, the female passenger admitted to doctor shopping at the behest of a completely different person, not J.A.R. The female passenger explained that J.A.R. had given her a ride to a pain clinic in Broward County. According to Det. Starr, the female passenger never implicated J.A.R. in criminal conduct.

On November 10, 2009, the State orally nolle prossed the case at a Vero Beach docket call. This means all charges against J.A.R. were dropped.

Several lessons might be learned from the circumstances of this case:

  1. Be careful giving friends rides to pain clinics. Police might suppose you have some involvement just because you were helping the friend out – even without any direct involvement in the controlled substance transaction.
  2. Take care to find out the background of the key officers in the prosecution. The discovery that Dep. Turner had been fired for misconduct was a turning point in the case.
  3. Do not accept the evidence at face value. In this case, a reputable detective contradicted the key information used by Dep. Turner to arrest J.A.R. Good police officers do not cover up police misconduct.
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