The Clark County Sheriff said having weapons and drugs in the courthouse evidence room and clerk’s office wasn’t safe and county judges did the right thing by ordering their removal.
Clark County Sheriff Deborah Burchett said it is her responsibility to ensure the safety of the courthouse and she’s happy to get the guns, ammunition and drugs out of the courthouse and into her own evidence storage area.
“We located all these guns, numerous amounts of drugs, fentanyl, marijuana,” she said. “We have to make sure as the sheriff’s office that the courthouse is safe.”
“For the safety of the judges, the attorneys, the people who are coming in and out of the courthouse all day long, for the safety of the community. There’s no way they can get to these here but over there, anybody could get to them,” Burchett said. “Even though the building is alarmed, after-hours anybody could get into that building and be away with the guns and everything.”
Burchett’s office cut the lock of the courthouse evidence room last week and searched the Clark County Common Pleas Clerk of Court’s office this week as part of a court orders issued by the county judges. The judges and Clerk of Court Melissa Tuttle have gone back and forth about whether Tuttle is effectively running her office.
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.”
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