19th JDC gets update on revamped evidence room

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A major theft of items inside the East Baton Rouge Parish court's evidence locker has prompted some major changes.

More than 15 pounds of cocaine and some guns were reported missing from the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk's evidence room last year. Evidence room employee William Bates Colvin was arrested and police say he admitted his involvement. The case is still pending for five others.

Evidence room safety had to be addressed. The Chief Judge at the time, Mike Erwin, issued a court order to inventory the entire evidence room and to change the way they do things.

Evidence storage expert Shannon Turner said she could see how something like this could have happened.

In the last eight months, Turner has revamped the process of collecting and processing evidence in the 19th JDC. She said when she first saw the stored evidence; she found a lot of room for improvement.

"My biggest concern was things were not sealed. So I was able to physically see the evidence; like I could just look in and see it," said Turner.

Turner and company did make significant changes that she says will ensure that no one will be able to walk out with 22 kilos of cocaine again.

"The extra security that's in place, the additional cameras, the limited access, as a matter of fact not all of the clerks employees knows where the evidence is located here in the building," said Chief Criminal Judge Trudy White.

Judge White says it is essential that evidence be preserved in the proper manner.

"It has to be perfect; there is no room for errors. A person's life or liberty is impacted as to whether or not the evidence has been properly maintained," said Judge White.

White goes on to say there is an equal responsibility to maintain the rights of the victims in cases as well.

The judges were also given a detailed inventory of the evidence locker. There were more than 9,500 cases. The inventory search also found a number of missing items including guns, drugs and cash. The good news is that according to Judge White, the discrepancies should not affect any pending cases that are currently in the court system.

So, between the new procedures and inventory control, it appears the evidence locker is now secure.

One new security measure is that one person cannot access the evidence locker alone. It takes two keys to open the door. When asked if WAFB could see inside the evidence room, we were told "not yet" because of the new system.

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