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Court acquits former chemistry professor accused of cooking meth

Jury finds reasonable doubt in case against Terry David Bateman

by Dalmeet Singh Chawla, special to C&EN
October 28, 2021


A mug shot of Terry David Bateman.
Credit: Clark County Sheriff's Office
Terry David Bateman was found not guilty of methamphetamine-related charges.

A court acquitted a former chemistry professor at Henderson State University (HSU) in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, after a jury found him not guilty of making methamphetamine.

The jury in Clark County District Court in Arkadelphia said on Oct. 27 it had reasonable doubt about the charges against Terry David Bateman.

In November 2019, police arrested Bateman and Bradley Allen Rowland, also a former HSU chemistry professor, whose trial is scheduled for November. They were charged with allegedly making methamphetamine, possession of phenylpropanolamine—a precursor of methamphetamine—and manufacturing a controlled substance in a drug-free zone.

Both pleaded not guilty. According to news reports, Rowland faces $35,000 in restitution to HSU if found guilty.

In court, Rowland testified against Bateman, describing the process the two used to make methamphetamine and a timeline of events, according to local news coverage of the trial. Rowland claimed that in 2014 Bateman told him and other professors that he had found enough phenylacetic acid, a key ingredient in the synthesis of the illicit drug, to make methamphetamine for 30 years.

In response, Bateman claimed that he had never made or used methamphetamine, alleging that Rowland was solely responsible. Bateman claimed that the vials of methamphetamine found inside the safe in his office belonged to Rowland.

Bateman also told the court that the documents found in his office with chemical formulas describing the process of making methamphetamine were because his students asked about the popular TV series “Breaking Bad,” in which fictional chemistry teacher Walter White cooks crystal meth in his lab.

In 2019, police officers visited an HSU laboratory where the alleged drug production took place. They retrieved samples that were found to contain methamphetamine and phenyl-2-propanone (P2P), a precursor in the synthesis of methamphetamine and amphetamine.

This was after a spill of benzyl chloride, a precursor to P2P, at HSU, which resulted in the university’s science building closing for 3 weeks. According to news reports, HSU spent nearly $150,000 in cleaning and repair costs on the building.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the verdict,” prosecuting attorney Dan Turner told the news media.

Bateman’s attorney, William O. James Jr., and Tina Hall, associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications at HSU, didn’t respond to requests for comment.



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