via Harris County Sheriff's Office
A mugshot of Ex-St. Louis cop Jason Stockley from his May 2016 arrest.
Attorneys for the state of Missouri withheld key evidence from Anthony Lamar Smith's family during a civil lawsuit, an independent investigator has found.
Smith, a 24-year-old black man, was killed in 2011 by a white St. Louis police officer in 2011. The city paid a $900,000 settlement to his young daughter — but the family's attorney, Albert Watkins, says they were short-changed by lawyers who did not tell them about "vital" DNA evidence.
Attorney General Josh Hawley commissioned the investigation after Watkins complained in September about the missing lab reports. Watkins lodged similar complaints
Former federal prosecutor Hal Goldsmith, who is now a partner at Bryan Cave, handled the inquiry, reviewing case files and interviewing attorneys and investigators involved in the case. In an abbreviated report released today, he noted that at least one state attorney knew about the DNA reports before the 2013 settlement was reached, yet did not hand them over as required by law.
Hawley says Goldsmith's full report cannot be released without permission of the officer and police board, due to attorney-client privilege.
The Attorney General's Office represented the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Board of Commissioners and the cop, Jason Stockley, in the lawsuit because the city's police department was under state control at the time.
Goldsmith's report notes that the Riverfront Times
asked a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office about the possible existence of the DNA analysis twice in 2016 and was told no one at the office had any knowledge of the reports.
The missing lab reports would have been crucial to the family's position, Watkins argues. They show then-officer Stockley's DNA was on a Taurus handgun recovered from Smith's car. The now-former cop and his partner chased Smith at high speeds before they rammed his car and Stockley shot him five times.
The ex-cop claimed that Smith was reaching for the gun and that he shot him in self defense.
Yet an analysis done by a St. Louis police lab technician in February 2012 shows that not only was Stockley's DNA found on a screw head on the gun, but that Smith's DNA was not present.
Stockley was charged
in 2016 with murder in the case, and prosecutors alleged during the bench trial that DNA evidence showed that the now-former officer planted the handgun after killing Smith. Stockley was acquitted in September
, which sparked months of protests throughout St. Louis.
Watkins had pursued a similar gun-planting theory in the civil suit, but he only learned about the DNA evidence from the criminal case. That information would have been particularly valuable given the lower bar for evidence in a civil case, he says.
Goldsmith's findings confirm the "system is rigged," Watkins says. He's calling on the city to reopen negotiations in the civil case, adding that he'll give the city counselor's office 24 hours to "lick their festering, pus-filled wounds, regroup and determine they are going to do the right thing."
If they don't agree to renegotiate, "we can make this a shitshow for the ages," he says.
Watkins has not put a dollar value on the potential new settlement. For reference, he points to the $1.5 million settlement awarded the family of Michael Brown, who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson. He notes that Smith's case could be even stronger, given the videos, DNA and other evidence.
A city spokesman says the case was not handled by city attorneys and referred questions to the Attorney General's Office.
In a statement, Hawley laid the blame on his predecessor, Chris Koster, and the city, saying there was "a clear discovery violation on behalf of the City of St. Louis in the civil lawsuit with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith."
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