Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Butler Case Makes Sheriff and Prosecutor Look Bad

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Butler Case Makes Sheriff and Prosecutor Look Bad

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

Some in the Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office believe the grand jury that investigated the Brenton Butler case exonerated their offices of wrongdoing.

It didn't.

The grand jury's report, issued late last week, was damning. It should give all of us pause about the conduct of our police and prosecutors.

Brenton Butler was 15 when he was arrested in May 2000 and charged with murdering a Georgia tourist during a robbery at a motel on University Boulevard.

The victim's husband identified Butler as the killer. Homicide detectives said Butler confessed.

Butler spent six months in jail waiting for his trial. He maintained that he was innocent, that the detectives, including Sheriff Nat Glover's son, Michael, had beaten him and coerced him into admitting guilt.

The trial jury found the state's case totally lacking. The gun used in the murder was never found. Butler's fingerprints were not on the victim's purse. He didn't have gunshot residue on his hands. And his clothes and shoes did not contain any blood from the victim, who was shot at close range.

After deliberating less than an hour, the jury found Butler not guilty.

Still cocksure in the state's case, a prosecutor intimated that the jury had just let a killer go free.

Then, two men were later arrested in the case, and the Sheriff's Office and State Attorney's Office were left looking foolish.

An outside prosecutor was brought in to find out what went wrong. In issuing its report, the grand jury said a lot.

The panel said there wasn't enough evidence to indict the homicide detectives on charges of beating Butler, which the officers denied doing, but that shouldn't be viewed as clearing them.

"This is not to say that we do not believe Brenton Butler or that we believe the officers," the grand jury said. "We simply are not convinced as to where the truth lies in this case. …

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