Tuttle has called the orders and searches a “witch-hunt” and said that the evidence room was secured. She said the judges are accomplishing nothing through their orders and are intimidating her and her employees in the process.
“My main concern is that rightful, lawful owners get items of value, significance, and importance returned, and that exhibits in ongoing cases are preserved for further appeals to protect the record,” Tuttle said.
She said she has attempted to work with prosecutors and the court to prevent drug evidence from lingering in the courthouse.
“I dare to say that my proactive approach to the exhibits, created an environment of which the judges have ordered their opinions on how the appeal exhibits should be treated, despite the research that I have accumulated on better practices,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle said she still feels it’s wrong that the judges are issuing court orders related to evidence in cases being handled by the appeals court.
“It is key to note that the trial court judges are making orders on cases of the appellate court which is the court that can overrule their decisions,” she said.
A final count to determine how many guns and other evidence was collected by the sheriff’s office isn’t ready yet, Burchett said, but she has two of her own clerks working to count and organize it.
“We brought everything over here so we can inventory it to make sure all the property goes where it’s supposed to be,” Burchett said. “They have to go through everything. So far they did about 55 boxes of evidence. They are separating everything and labeling it and writing everything down so the judges will know what they have and what they don’t.”
Burchett said her office will promptly provide any evidence required by the appeals to court to Tuttle. All her office has to do is ask, she said.
“We’re not holding anything from her,” Burchett said. “We are organizing this. If she needs anything for a court case, she’s more than welcome to let my property clerk’s know and they will take that right over to her for the cases she needs.”
“We do that every day with the court, take the property back and forth,” the sheriff said. “We’re not going to withhold any property for any case.”
Burchett said the public is safer because of the judge’s order.
“We store a lot of property and we have secured areas where the public is nowhere near it,” she said. “The windows in the courthouse have no bars on it.”
The Springfield News-Sun has provided fair and accurate information reporting on the dispute between the judges and Melissa Tuttle. The Springfield News-Sun will provide further coverage when developments break.