Withheld Evidence Reopens White-on-Black Police Killing

ST. LOUIS (CN) — Citing DNA evidence that was withheld, a federal judge Tuesday ordered the reopening of a civil rights lawsuit in a high-profile, white-on-black police killing of a drug suspect.

Anthony Lamar Smith was killed by then-St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley after a mile-long high-speed chase in January 2011. Stockley is white and Smith was black.

Federal and local prosecutors declined to criminally charge Stockley.

Attorney Albert Watkins then filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police department on behalf of Smith’s child. The suit was settled for $900,000 in 2013.

Three years later, then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce charged Stockley with first-degree murder. Joyce said there was new evidence and cited reports dating to 2012 that showed only Stockley’s DNA was found on a gun found inside Smith’s vehicle, indicating that Stockley had planted it.

Weeks of racially charged protests occurred after a judge found Stockley innocent on Sept. 15, 2017.

Watkins claimed that when the case was settled he was not aware of the DNA evidence showing that only Stockley’s DNA was on the gun in Smith’s car. He filed motions to reopen the case, saying the evidence would have had a direct impact on the settlement amount.

When Smith was shot, the state government ran the city police department, so attorneys from then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office represented the board of civilian commissioners.

Current Attorney General Josh Hawley commissioned former federal prosecutor Hal Goldsmith to investigate. In an 11-page report, Goldsmith found that Koster’s office improperly withheld lab reports about the DNA, despite legal requirements and a court order that mandated that all evidence be turned over to Watkins.

U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton based her decision to reopen the discovery portion of the lawsuit in part on that report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Hawley’s office declined to answer questions about Hamilton’s decision on Wednesday but issued a statement to the Post-Dispatch saying, in part: “The court is permitting the plaintiff to take discovery on allegations relating to the motion for discovery sanctions.”

The attorney blamed for failing to turn over the evidence has since left the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Watkins and attorneys representing Stockley did not immediately return calls requesting comment Wednesday afternoon.

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