Police officer murder trial, fatal shot was inches from suspect

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ST. LOUIS - Day one of the murder trial involving a former St. Louis City Police officer, was full of twists.  Jason Stockley is charged first degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

During opening statements, the State alleged Stockley shot Smith 5 times, with the final shot being at such close range that you can see a poof of smoke in the dash camera video.  The prosecutor said ballistic tests will show the shot was within six inches.  Photographs later presented in Court showed a shell casing in the car in which Smith died.

The defense questioned the evidence about the final shot, suggesting the shell casing could have bounced into the vehicle and saying there’s no evidence the poof of smoke was from a gunshot.  The defense also said Stockley and his partner feared for their lives, calling Smith a parole absconder and claiming the officers saw Smith with a gun twice before Stockley shot Smith to death.

Prosecutors say Stockley planted the gun and that the proof is not only from Stockley’s DNA, on that gun, but also from old blood from Stockley – suggesting the former officer had possessed that gun for a while.

Stockley’s defense attorney disputed it was blood and explained the positive DNA test, by claiming it was from Stockley unloading the weapon and making sure it was safe after the encounter.

So many citizens came out to see the trial that they couldn’t all fit into the courtroom.  It included Dhoruba Shakur who also made a point in front of the courthouse outside, by carrying a rifle.  He said he was reminding citizens and police officers about his rights and those he believed Smith was deprived of by police.

There was a lot of theatre inside the courtroom with some prosecutor quips leading to laughs from people in the audience.  The Judge and bailiffs cracked down, kicking out three citizens at one point.  Prosecutor Robert Steele seemed to score a point as he revealed and earlier interaction between the officers and Smith.  Steele pointed out that Stockley’s partner re-holstered his weapon at one point after talking to Smith.  The prosecutor suggested the interaction cast doubt on whether the officers really saw Smith with a gun.

Kim Gardner, Circuit Attorney - City of St. Louis

"Today marked the beginning of the trial of former St. Louis Police Metropolitan Officer Jason Stockley for the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.

As the Circuit Attorney, I believe people should be held accountable for violating the law, regardless of their occupation or social status. I also believe that it is my duty to ensure a fair and transparent process. This trial is open to the public and may take as long as two weeks.  Judge Timothy Wilson will be deciding this matter as Mr. Stockley has waived his right to a jury trial.

While convictions of police officers are very difficult to secure, we are committed to presenting evidence to prove Mr. Stockley’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."