Published in the St. Louis American, August 3, 2017
The murder investigation of Jason Stockley bounced around in 2011 like a flaming hot potato. The case was volleyed among and between the investigative units of the St. Louis Police Department, local, state and federal prosecutors as well as the FBI before criminal charges were finally filed by Jennifer Joyce. The Stockley case was probably one of many which convinced Joyce that riding cross-country in a RV was more appealing than being the city’s head prosecutor. The murder trial this week fell into the lap of new Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
To refresh your memory, the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith happened in late 2011. Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, alleged they saw a drug deal involving Smith. A high-speed car chase through North St. Louis ended in a crash and with Stockley coming up on Smith’s car pumping five rounds into his body. Stockley claimed he saw Smith going for a gun and so the usual internal affairs quickie probe justified the murder. How a Black citizen can end up dead based on suspicions is commonplace but still unacceptable. Additional evidence led to murder charges in May 2016—some four and a half years later.
And just who is Jason Stockley? Stockley is a West Point graduate who served in Iraq. He was discharged after being wounded and received a Bronze Star. The latter fact compels groups like the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression to demand more scrutiny of vets joining urban police departments who may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Stockley must have thought he was in Baghdad because he carried his personal, high-powered AK-47 to work that day. Carrying one’s own weapon on duty is a violation of police policy. Stockley left the SLPD in 2013 and headed for Texas where he was residing at the time of his arrest for first-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Stockley and the Blue Bloods have been hell-bent in obstructing justice since the murder. The evidence is pointing to the rogue cop planting a gun on the unarmed Smith. A forensic analysis of the gun Stockley claimed was Smith’s only had the cop’s fingerprints on it. It will be difficult for Stockley to explain away audio where he is heard saying “going to kill the (expletive), don’t you know.” Yeah, we know. Pre-meditated murder.
Presiding Judge Timothy Wilson has a gag order in place on all parties involved and no TV cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. All this to protect Stockley’s “due process rights…and his right to an impartial jury.” The accused cop must have feared that impartial jury because just days before the onset of the trial, he waived his right to a trial by jury leaving his fate to the judge. His decision ironically came two weeks after the Organization for Black Struggle launched its Black Jurors Matter campaign to prevent all-white juries. No real proof of the connection between the decision and the campaign. I’m just saying it’s interesting timing.
Albert Watkins is the attorney who filed the civil suit against the cop and the police commissioners on behalf of Smith’s young daughter. Watkins won the largest settlement in history against a St. Louis cop. In the civil case, Watkins reviewed a ponderous of evidence including police reports, video tapes, forensic analyses and the autopsy report. He concluded that all that evidence sat for near four years before the prosecutor did anything with it. What he didn’t have at the time of the civil case was the DNA report from the gun alleged to belong to Smith or Watkins thinks he would’ve gotten an even bigger settlement sum.
Watkins also offered some legal advice to Stockley: “Pull his head out of his ass and cop a plea.” That would be the honorable thing for a decorated veteran to do but rather than be accountable, Stockley made the decision to plead his case to another white man. It’s a rarity for an accused cop to get a guilty verdict with a jury. Let’s see what conclusion Judge Wilson comes to at the end of this twisted judicial road.