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The mystery of what happened to 71 oxycodone pills that disappeared after being introduced as evidence in a Franklin County drug-possession trial remains unsolved after a sheriff's office investigation.
But there is no evidence that any of the jurors stole the pills, the lead investigator testified Wednesday.
"My opinion is, none of them had anything to do with it," Sgt. Bill Duffer said.
Based on Duffer's investigation, Common Pleas Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt denied a motion for a new trial for Phillip M. Edwards, who was convicted by the jury of possessing large amounts of heroin, cocaine and other drugs and failing to comply with a police officer.
The judge immediately held a sentencing hearing and sent Edwards, 45, to prison for 25 years. Assistant Prosecutor Dan Stanley called him "the biggest solo drug dealer" he's seen in 10 years of prosecuting drug cases.
Edwards' defense attorney, John David Moore Jr., had accused one or more jurors of stealing the highly addictive painkillers while they were deliberating with the evidence in a jury room. Stanley discovered that the pills were missing on July 21, the day after the case ended.
Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and the bench's most experienced judges have said they can't recall a previous case in which evidence went missing immediately after a verdict.
Despite the findings of the investigator, Moore continued to insist that jurors were the most likely culprits in the disappearance of the drugs. He asked for a new trial based on a claim of jury misconduct.
Beatty Blunt said she saw "no evidence to support any jury misconduct. Any alleged misconduct is speculation at best."
Although a box and bag containing the evidence in the case, including a variety of drugs, was supplied to the jury during deliberations, Duffer said he wasn't able to determine whether the missing pills even reached the jury room.
Duffer testified that he conducted individual interviews with all 12 jurors, reviewed surveillance video from the hallway outside the jury room and investigated the cleaning crew that serviced the jury room.
Most of the jurors told Duffer that they didn't examine any of the evidence during deliberations and none could remember seeing the pills. A security guard followed the usual procedure of going into the jury room to make sure no evidence was left behind before allowing the cleaning crew inside, Duffer said.
"I can't show that any jury member or cleaning crew member maliciously took the evidence," he said. "I don't know where it went."
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