Former Attorney General Chris Koster’s administration and the St. Louis Metropolitan Board of Police Commissioners withheld DNA evidence in the 2012 civil rights lawsuit over the officer-involved shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, an independent investigator found.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley today announced the investigator’s conclusion that “both the Koster administration and the board were aware of DNA evidence in the case, but this evidence was not timely disclosed in discovery.”
Attorney Albert Watkins represented Smith’s daughter, Autumn, in a 2012 federal wrongful-death lawsuit against then-police officer Jason Stockley and the police department. Watkins said this evidence would have been critical in aiding the family’s lawsuit.
“The victims are not just Anthony Lamar Smith and his daughter and fiance, but it’s every resident,” Watkins said, “because our federal court system has been comprised. And because of that, our Civil Rights Act has been compromised. You cannot have one form of justice for whites and one form of justice for blacks.”
Stockley shot and killed Smith on December 20, 2011, after he and his partner chased Smith at speeds over 80 miles an hour. Stockley was heard on an internal police car video saying, “Going to kill this m/f, don’t you know it,” and then shot him five times.
Stockley claimed he acted in self-defense because Smith was reaching for a gun. In 2016, Stockley was charged with first-degree murder in this case. During his bench trial this August, DNA experts testified that they found had no trace of Smith’s DNA on the gun he was supposedly reaching for.
Stockley’s DNA, however, was present on the firearm, which prosecutors said supported their argument that Stockley planted the gun in Smith’s car after killing him.
Stockley was acquitted on Sept. 15, sparking protests that have yet to cease. But Watkins said the DNA evidence is of “significant value” in the civil rights case.
Koster’s office represented the police commissioners and Stockley in the 2012 lawsuit because the city’s police department then was under state control. The Board of Police Commissioners agreed to a $900,000 settlement in June 2013, contingent upon complete confidentiality – meaning Watkins had to shred all the evidence he gathered during the case.
During the civil case, Watkins signed a global discovery request – which meant if there were DNA analysis completed for the gun, he should have gotten it. But Watkins never received any DNA lab analysis, he said.
In a September 18 letter to Hawley’s office, Watkins raised various allegations, primarily that the Koster had failed to produce two specific items of evidence to him prior to the June 20, 2013 mediation and settlement of the lawsuit: Evidence which reflected that only Stockley’s DNA was found on the revolver seized from Smith’s vehicle, and a video recording purportedly made by a citizen in the area of the 2011 shooting incident. He had raised these concerns in June 2016 as well, but they went unanswered, according to investigators.
Former federal prosecutor Hal Goldsmith, who’s now at Bryan Cave law firm, led the independent investigation into Watkin’s allegations.
Goldsmith concluded that there was a “clear discovery violation on behalf of the City of St. Louis.”
Because of attorney-client privilege and client confidentiality, Hawley’s office could not release the full report without signed waivers from the Board of Police Commissioners and Stockley, Hawley stated.
Hawley said they have requested waivers from the board and Stockley to allow public access to the full report, but have not yet received them.
Hawley released an edited version of Goldsmith’s detailed report. The investigator didn’t find any evidence that Koster or the police department had or knew of the December 20, 2011 civilian recorded video until it was first published by the Post Dispatch on June 3, 2016.
However, regarding the laboratory evidence identifying former Stockley’s DNA on the Taurus revolver, Goldsmith stated that the Koster’s office was aware of and failed to turn over that information prior to the settlement with Smith’s family.
The SLMPD Laboratory Technician Dr. Karen Preiter analyzed the DNA recovered from those swabs, compared it to the known DNA of Smith and Stockley, and concluded in her February 14, 2012 written report that Stockley’s DNA was recovered from the revolver, while the Smith’s DNA was not present on the revolver. Additional DNA evidence was recovered from a screwhead on the Taurus revolver during June, 2012, analyzed by Preiter and, as documented in
her July 31, 2012 written report, again identified as the DNA of Stockley, while the Smith’s DNA was not identified. Neither of Preiter’s written laboratory reports were produced to Smith’s family in discovery prior to the settlement, investigators found.
Watkins said the family will now go back to court and file a motion for contempt and seek to reopen negotiations and move forward with the case.
“This is not a case that is over,” Watkins said. “Today we got the truth, tomorrow we get justice.”