The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that it is investigating Deputy Zachary Wester, a former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The now-fired officer has been accused of planting drugs on people at traffic stops.
While the investigation is still ongoing, prosecutors have already dropped charges in more than two dozen cases, saying the evidence that Wester may have planted methamphetamine caused them to “lose confidence” in his arrests.
On Friday, a Florida circuit judge vacated at least eight people’s sentences. State Attorney Glenn Hess, the chief prosecutor for that circuit, said his office is now reviewing 263 total cases involving the allegedly crooked cop from the past two years.
But had this story not come out, it is quite possible that dozens of innocent Floridians would have had felony convictions on their record. And under Florida’s especially punitive disenfranchisement law, that means they would have lost their right to vote even after completing their sentence. Under Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) administration, it has proved nearly impossible for ex-felons to have those rights restored.
On November 6, that could all change. Thanks to a voter initiative called the Voting Restoration Amendment, Florida voters who have not been disenfranchised will consider Amendment 4. This constitutional amendment would give many of the estimated 1.6 million Floridians who have lost their voting rights due to a felony conviction (about a quarter of the national total) a chance to earn those rights back by completing their sentences, parole, and/or probation.
Should Sunshine State voters pass this amendment, voters would not only be giving those with felony convictions a second chance after they’ve repaid their debt to society — they would also be robbing corrupt cops of the ability to disenfranchise the innocent.