JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–A Jackson County jury spent their third day in court Wednesday for Zachary Wester’s trial. He’s a former deputy accused of planting drugs on people during traffic stops and then arresting them for possession.
Similar to Tuesday’s proceeding, jurors heard more testimony from alleged victims of Wester. They also heard from several subject matter experts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as current and former members of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. But the most moving evidence was shown at the end.
“Man I like to hum a tune in case anything ever goes in front of a jury.” Zachary Wester uttered those words three years ago when searching the car of James and Jade Fears.
“Man this is wrong dude, this is mad wrong,” James Fears says in body camera footage from the incident.
The Fears testified Wednesday, saying they were on their way to Walmart when Wester pulled them over for issues with their tag. Moments later, they learned drugs were found in their car.
“Check for fingerprints on that bottle. I do not do drugs,” Fears can be heard saying in the body camera footage.
The encounter played out in court. It also includes this exchange between Wester and two other deputies called for backup.
“It didn’t look like it was pressed up under there?” A Deputy asks, “No, it was out of place, it was clean. It didn’t look like it had been there for a couple of days. It looked like it was just put there,” another Deputy responds.
Wester’s attorney tried to cast doubt, bringing up Fears’ past drug use.
“In the video, it also says that’s why you went to prison,” said Davis. “No, I didn’t go to prison,” responds Fears. “Oh I’m sorry, but were convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine?” Davis asks, “Yes,” Fears responds.
The Hazelwoods also testified Wednesday. Wester pulled them over with their two kids in the car.
“I swear I don’t do nothing,” Kimberly Hazelwood says when being searched.
Hazelwood was arrested for possession. Her husband defended her in court. But Davis brought up his past too.
“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Davis asks Jeremy Hazelwood.
“Yes, four,” Hazelwood replies.
“What about a crime of dishonesty?” Davis asks.
“Two,” Hazelwood replies.
For their last witnesses, the state introduced former Lt. Michael Hodges. He launched the Internal Affairs Investigation into Wester.
The state played a video of Hodges searching Wester’s patrol car after it was seized. In the video, it appears he finds suspected drugs and paraphernalia along with field drug test kits with powder already in them.
“Can you think of any reason why there would be white powder in a field test in this condition without any reagent or label or anything on it?” asks Assistant State Attorney Thomas Williams.
“No sir,” Hodges replies.
The jury will reconvene Thursday morning.