ST. LOUIS (AP) — An investigation requested by relatives of a black man killed in a police shooting found that the former Missouri attorney general's office withheld DNA evidence that could have been useful in a wrongful-death lawsuit, and the family's lawyer said Tuesday he might sue again if the city won't renegotiate the settlement terms in the wake of the evidence issue.
St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley's DNA was found on a gun at the scene of the shooting of 24-year-old drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011, but Smith's DNA was not. Stockley, who is white, had said Smith was moving his hand toward a gun found in his car, but prosecutors have insisted that Stockley planted the weapon.
At the urging of Smith's family, current Missouri 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's investigation report, which Hawley released Tuesday, said a St. Louis police lab technician concluded in two 2012 reports that Stockley's DNA was recovered from the revolver at the scene, but not Smith's. Goldsmith found that neither report was provided to attorneys for Smith's family, which filed their federal wrongful-death lawsuit in 2012.
The DNA evidence was cited in Stockley's criminal trial, but a judge in September still acquitted Stockley of first-degree murder.
Smith's family was awarded $900,000 in 2013 in a settlement of their civil case. Most of the money went to Smith's daughter, who was an infant in 2011 when her father was shot.
Goldsmith's report only addresses the civil case. It determined that the office of former Attorney General Chris Koster "was aware of and failed to turn over" the DNA evidence. It also said that several members of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners were aware of the evidence but the city failed to release it.
Koster, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for governor last year. Hawley, a Republican, won the election to replace him.
"This wrongful nondisclosure (of evidence) really goes to the core of our justice system," said Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith's family.
"And when you hear these outcries of injustice and assertions that the system is rigged after the acquittal of Stockley, one has to keep in mind that part of the process of justice for the family of Anthony Lamar Smith was this federal civil rights case," Watkins added.
Watkins urged the city's legal office to agree to return to mediation and renegotiate the civil case. He said if the city doesn't agree to do so, he will refile the lawsuit.
A message seeking comment from Koster through Centene Corp., where he now works, was not immediately returned. A police spokeswoman declined comment on the investigation report. Koran Addo, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said the report "is a matter for the Attorney General's Office" and declined further comment.
Smith was spotted by Stockley and his partner in a suspected drug transaction in December 2011. Smith nearly struck the officers in 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.