by Max Brantley
The problem was testimony in his case last Wednesday by Sedrick Reed, then a State Police lieutentant. Reed was fired the next day, after his testimony was completed, for allegedly taking cocaine from an evidence room he supervised and selling it. He was arrested Thursday on a federal charge related to that activity.
At Sheppard's circuit court trial on drug trafficking and gun charges, his attorney tried to get evidence about the drugs excluded from evidence because it could not be located for independent lab analysis. Reed testified that he didn't know what happened to the evidence, but he was sure it had not been deliberately misplaced or destroyed and the prosecution successfully preserved lab analysis of the drugs in the trial.
In the motion filed today, Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said he wasn't informed about Reed's criminal problems until the day after he testified. It says he ultimately learned that the State Police, sheriff's office and FBI all were informed of the investigation of Reed, but didn't notify the prosecutor. A member of a joint public official task force was present in the courtroom for Reed's testimony, but wouldn't tell a deputy prosecutor precisely why he was present, a source tells me.
Jegley's office said the failure of those agencies to disclose information about Reed tainted the state's case and he asked Judge Barry Sims to vacate the judgment and set the conviction aside. If the motion is granted, he could not be retried. UPDATE: The judge granted the motion.
Jegley said he regretted events, but vacating the conviction was the right thing to do under the circumstances. "We can't use a tainted cop to convict, no matter how horrible the defendant. And he is pretty horrible."
Sheppard is a notorious figure who was accused in a past shooting spree. He won't be roaming the streets any time soon, however. He received a 25-year sentence in 2010 for shootings in Sherwood and North Little Rock directed at former employers and others he didn't like. His latest trial was for charges that arose from a traffic stop in which he was found in possession of cocaine, marijuana and a loaded pistol. Defense witnesses said he was mentally ill and had been upset by death of close family members. Taking the stand in his own defense, he proclaimed his innocence, blamed his trouble on homosexuals, invoked the name of Trayvon Martin and said his constitutional rights were violated.
UPDATE: A comment from Bill Sadler of the State Police on Jegley's filing:
Immediately following last Thursday's arrest, Colonel Stan Witt, Director of the Arkansas State Police, ordered a forensic audit of contents stored within the evidence vault located inside Little Rock Troop A headquarters. The audit is continuing today.
Once the audit is completed, Colonel Witt intends to be in contact with the appropriate state prosecuting attorneys if any audit finding indicates a criminal case may have been compromised as the result of evidence discrepancies or tampering.
As to your question relating to any comment from State Police regarding the presence of a Justice Department Task Force representative inside the courtroom last week, such an inquiry should be directed to the Department of Justice or FBI.
I've also sought comment from the U.S. attorney's office.