The gun found in Anthony Lamar Smith’s car after then-St. Louis city police officer Jason Stockley shot and killed him had no trace of Smith’s DNA on it, DNA experts testified during the Stockley’s murder trial this week.
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, a white man, is accused of first-degree murder in the 2011 killing of Smith, a black St. Louis resident.
Stockley’s attorneys repeatedly said that it didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t Smith’s gun. It is possible that the DNA found on that Taurus revolver was only deposited there in the moment when Stockley unloaded the gun after seizing it from the car, the defense said.
The Taurus revolver was presented in court as evidence – along with the clothes Smith wore that day, Stockley’s department-issued gun and his personal AK-47.
On December 20, 2011, Stockley and his partner, Officer Brian Bianchi, pursued Smith in a high-speed chase after he pulled out of a Church’s Chicken parking lot, hitting the police car in the process. Stockley fired seven shots into the fleeing vehicle, prosecutors said, using a personal weapon, an assault rifle, which violated department policy.
During the pursuit, Stockley is heard on an internal police car video saying, “Going to kill this [expletive], don’t you know it.”
As Smith’s car was slowing to a stop, Stockley is also heard telling Bianchi to “hit him right now,” at which point Bianchi slammed the police SUV into Smith’s car.
The airbags deployed. Both cars stopped. Then, within the next few minutes, Stockley got out of his car, walked to the Buick and shot Smith five times. Smith had not left the driver’s seat of his car.
Witness Elijah Simpson, a police officer who arrived on the scene “almost at the same time” as the shooting, testified that shortly afterwards, he went to the driver’s side door and lifted up the airbag. He did not see a gun in the car then, though Stockley’s defense noted that perhaps the gun was hidden between the seats. He noticed that neither the car nor the victim had been searched, though “based on my experience, suspects should be removed from the vehicle and placed in handcuffs,” Simpson said.
He called it “strange” that Stockley left Smith’s vehicle, came back, and then searched the vehicle for the gun.
Next, the medical examiner who examined Smith’s body testified. He found five gunshot entry wounds, all on the left side of the body, along with one exit wound. One wound on Smith’s arm suggests that he had been raising his arm to shield himself when shot.
The jacket Smith had been wearing was also analyzed as part of efforts to reconstruct the scene. An FBI expert who tested the bullet holes on the jacket concluded, using the modified griess test (for nitrite residue) and sodium rhodizonate test (for lead), that a hole in the left shoulder area of the jacket was from a bullet shot from under six inches away. Though it wasn’t what ultimately killed Smith, it was what the prosecution referred to as the “kill shot” – deliberate and close-range. A shot from such close range would have been muffled by the car, which could explain why some policemen at the scene didn’t hear Stockley’s fifth shot.
At the end of the third day, several DNA experts testified as witnesses for the state.
“DNA just tells you there is DNA present,” said St. Louis Police Department DNA expert Karen Pryor.
The only DNA found on the gun in Smith’s car had a profile similar to Stockley’s, but, as the prosecution said, that does not conclusively prove that Smith did not touch the gun. Regardless, what the DNA appeared to say was this: The probability of the DNA on the Taurus gun in Smith’s car being unrelated to Officer Stockley was 1/200 billion in the caucasian population, and even lower in the African-American population, with “no indication of an additional individual,” touching the gun, according to Pryor.
Stockley waived his right to a jury trial. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson carries full responsibility for his fate. During the second and third days in the courtroom for the Stockley murder trial, the composition of the audience solidified. On the right was the family of the man who Stockley killed, Anthony Lamar Smith, along with their friends, lawyers, and supporters, as well as some staff members from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office. On the left was Stockley’s family, and his supporters, including several members of the Police Officer’s Association who arrived each day.
The right side of the courtroom was almost all black. The left side was almost all white.
After a long week of witnesses for the prosecution, witnesses for the defense are expected to begin testifying next Tuesday, when the trial resumes.