DALTON, Ga. — A Whitfield County jury found a homeless man who was discovered asleep on a train not guilty of possession of meth, the Public Defender’s Office said.
During the trial of Christopher Stevphen Arnold, 30, the prosecutor presented evidence that police found Arnold asleep on a train and arrested him for trespassing, a press release from Public Defender Natalie Glaser said. The press release said testimony indicated that Arnold had boarded a freight train after walking from Chattanooga on his way to LaFayette. Deputies searched the train car and found a bag with a cigarette pack inside that had meth in it.
Andrew Powell from the Public Defender’s Office, representing Arnold, contended that the meth inside the cigarette pack "had no connection" to Arnold, who faced up to three years in prison. According to the press release, "The deputy’s testimony was that Mr. Arnold was not smoking a cigarette nor did he smell like cigarettes. The other contents of the bag also had no signs of connection to Mr. Arnold whatsoever. The defense argued that police made assumptions about Arnold because of his homelessness and did not conduct a thorough-enough investigation."
“I’m pleased that the jury considered the lack of evidence and had reasonable doubt and acquitted Mr. Arnold,” Powell said in the press release.
District Attorney Bert Poston said in an email that the argument that "there was no evidence linking Mr. Arnold to the bag containing the methamphetamine" is "simply incorrect. Mr. Arnold told law enforcement officers that it was his bag prior to them looking at the bag and discovering the drugs. Unfortunately, after placing the drugs in evidence, the bag and its remaining contents were released to an associate of Mr. Arnold so that neither the bag nor those other contents were available for evidence during trial. Whether there were other items in the bag which might have further linked Arnold to the bag is not known and the jury appears to have had concerns about that. However, the evidence from the state was that Mr. Arnold claimed the bag and its contents prior to the drugs being discovered inside the bag leading to his arrest."
Poston added, "We presented the case to the jury to the best of our ability given that some of the evidence had inadvertently been released and we appreciate the jurors for their service and consideration of that evidence. Their verdict, that the evidence as presented was not sufficient to prove Mr. Arnold’s guilt beyond all reasonable doubt, is not what we had hoped for, but that was the jury’s decision to make and we accept that and thank them for their time and attention."