Judge reopens fact-finding in St. Louis police shooting suit
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge reopened fact-finding in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit over a former St. Louis police officer’s fatal shooting of a black man.
Attorney Al Watkins, who represents Anthony Lamar Smith’s family, on Wednesday confirmed U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton’s decision to reopen discovery. It comes after an attorney general’s office report that found DNA evidence was withheld from lawyers for Smith’s family.
Former officer Jason Stockley, who is white, was acquitted in criminal court of killing Smith, 24, in 2011. Stockley said Smith was moving his hand toward a gun found in his car, while prosecutors insisted Stockley had planted the weapon.
The attorney general’s office report showed Stockley’s DNA was found on a gun at the scene of the shooting, but Smith’s DNA was not. The evidence was not provided to the Smith’s family for the civil lawsuit, which was settled for $900,000 in 2013.
“There is no doubt about it. That was the elephant in the evidence locker room,” Watkins said.
Missouri Attorney General’s office spokeswoman Mary Compton acknowledged the judge’s decision in a Wednesday statement, but did not comment further.
The evidence was highlighted after the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office announced new criminal first-degree-murder charges against Stockley in 2016 and used it in the case against him. A judge ultimately acquitted Stockley in September, sparking months of protests in the St. Louis area.
At the urging of Smith’s family, current Attorney General Josh Hawley launched an investigation in which he hired private attorney, Hal Goldsmith, in September to look into allegations concerning the evidence. Goldsmith found that two St. Louis police lab reports from 2012 were not provided to attorneys for Smith’s family, which filed their federal wrongful-death lawsuit in 2012.
Hawley’s office released the results from Goldsmith’s investigation in December, but did not release the full report. Watkins said Smith’s family now wants more information to pinpoint who is at fault for not providing the DNA evidence to them during the civil lawsuit.
Smith was spotted by Stockley and his partner in a suspected drug transaction in December 2011. Police said Smith nearly struck the officers while driving away, prompting a chase that ended when Stockley shot Smith while Smith was still in his car.
Stockley resigned from the police department in 2013.