One of two former Henderson State University chemistry professors accused of fabricating methamphetamine in a campus lab was acquitted on Wednesday by a jury in Arkadelphia.
The Clark County Circuit Court jury deliberated nearly an hour before finding Terry David Bateman, 47, not guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine and two other less serious drug-related charges. Had Bateman been convicted of the single most serious count, he could have faced life in prison under Arkansas law.
The verdict of the trial, which began on Monday, came despite the prosecution of the other former professor. That defendant, Bradley Rowland, 42, has a preliminary hearing on Tuesday. Rowland’s trial is scheduled to begin on November 15.
People who testify against co-defendants often do so as part of a plea agreement in which a prosecutor agrees to recommend a lighter sentence in return for a guilty plea and cooperation in the case.
Bateman’s attorney Bill James said on Wednesday he believed an informal plea deal was at stake in the Rowland case. But neither Clark County District Attorney Dan Turner nor Rowland’s attorney Clinton Mathis immediately returned the phone messages asking for comment.
In a statement given to The Southern Standard, a Clark County weekly newspaper, Turner said, “I am disappointed with the verdict. I appreciate all the efforts of law enforcement and the Arkansas State Crime Lab and wish Henderson State University success in the future. “
Bateman and Rowland were arrested on November 15, 2019, a month after a chemical spill at a Henderson chemistry lab forced the school’s science building to close. An affidavit from Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson said the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory found both methamphetamine and a precursor chemical in several samples taken from the lab where the spill occurred. Bateman resigned from his post two weeks later and Rowland was fired in January 2020.
Discussing the verdict, James said, “The labs (at the university) are open to everyone. There really was no evidence that (Bateman) did anything. “
James said law enforcement officials found a safe in Bateman’s office that contained around 160 empty glass vials, many of which tested positive for methamphetamine. But Bateman said the safe belonged to Rowland.
“My client (Bateman) testified that he didn’t know how to get into the safe,” James said.
Papers describing how to make methamphetamine were found on Bateman’s desk. Bateman, who testified in his own defense, said he believed they belonged to a student, according to James.
James acknowledged that officers found “things in his lab that matched use to make methamphetamine,” but said the lab was a public facility. “It wasn’t like he was on an island.
“I told the jury in oral argument that there was a possibility that he (Bateman) had done this, that I couldn’t prove that he didn’t.” But there was also not enough evidence to prove that Bateman was guilty of the allegations, James said.
Bateman has been charged with felony possession of drug paraphernalia to manufacture methamphetamine and fictitiously manufacturing a controlled substance other than methamphetamine, specifically phenylacetone, also known as P2P or phenyl-2-propanone. P2P is the penultimate chemical step in a common technique used to make methamphetamine.
Rowland is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of paraphernalia to make methamphetamine, possession of a substance used to make methamphetamine, and manufacture of a controlled substance, specifically phenylpropanolamine. Just as Bateman might have had, Rowland could also get an increased penalty for making a controlled substance on a college campus.
After the chemical spill in the Henderson Science Building was reported on October 8, 2019, classes were canceled and teaching was suspended for weeks. A National Guard team, which was called in to help police identify dangerous chemicals, noted that the lab in which the spill occurred was in a state of disarray and filled with “open, unlabeled glassware. in sinks and workbenches, most containing liquid. “
Henderson ultimately spent $ 149,917 to clean and repair the three-story building. The lab where the spill occurred has been completely emptied and now serves as a storehouse for supplies.
A spokesperson for the Arkansas State University System, which took over Henderson in February, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday night.
This report is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network. ANNN is an independent, non-partisan news project supported in part by magnoliareporter.com and dedicated to producing journalism that matters to the Arkansans. CLICK HERE to learn more about ANNN.