The legal battle over a set of disappearing, reappearing police lab reports is heating up, more than six years after Anthony Lamar Smith was killed by a St. Louis cop.
The lab results showed that then-Officer Jason Stockley's DNA — and only his DNA — was found on a handgun the ex-cop said he'd found in Smith's car following the fatal December 2011 shooting.
It was info that should have been turned over to Smith's survivors during a civil lawsuit that resulted in a $900,000 settlement — but wasn't. The former assistant Attorney General who handled the case now says she does not know why the reports were not included among the documents and evidence provided to the family's attorney. But, she insists, it was not her fault.
Dana Redwing, once a top lawyer in the Attorney General's office, is fighting allegations by Smith family attorney Al Watkins that she and the Board of Police Commissioners intentionally concealed the reports as they headed into settlement negotiations.
The police department was under state control at the time and was represented by the Attorney General's office. Stockley was also represented by the state.
In a motion filed last month, Redwing says she knew DNA swabs had been sent for testing but says she never saw the results. She cites the report generated by an independent investigation that found no proof she had intentionally withheld anything.
"Ms. Redwing denies any suggestion in Plaintiff's motion that she at any time made any affirmative misrepresentation regarding any laboratory report, DNA evidence or any other discovery matter," reads a motion filed on her behalf by attorney James Martin of the law firm Dowd Bennett.
Martin tells the Riverfront Times
in an email, "We will not be trying this matter in the press and therefore will not respond to your specific inquiries."
The results of the DNA tests were publicly revealed in 2016
after Stockley was arrested in Texas and charged with murder. He and his partner in 2011 sped through neighborhoods, chasing Smith, whom they suspected of taking part in a drug deal. They eventually rammed Smith's sedan, and Stockley shot Smith five times, claiming self-defense against an armed suspect.
Prosecutors with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office claimed Stockley had planted a gun in Smith's sedan, citing the DNA found on the pistol as proof, before murdering him. The ex-cop was acquitted
last year during a bench trial, leading to months of protests.
The civil suit had played out more than four years before. Redwing disclosed reports showing DNA swabs had been sent to the police lab, but Watkins says she never gave him the results from the lab tests and pretended they didn't exist when he asked about them.
In a new motion filed Monday, he asks a judge to impose sanctions against Redwing, who is now in private practice.
Watkins suspects she further stymied him by claiming late in the process that she had discovered a conflict of interest with Stockley and had to hand his case over to a colleague in the Attorney General's Office.
Watkins says he was set to depose several police witnesses, but Redwing persuaded him to postpone the inquiries to give Stockley's new counsel time to get up to speed. Mediation in the case continued as planned, however, and a settlement was reached before the depositions were rescheduled. Watkins now suspects it was a strategic move to keep him from questioning witnesses who would have revealed that only Stockley's DNA was found on the handgun.
"While unclear at the time, it is Plaintiff's current hypothesis this tactic was deployed to prevent the depositions from taking place before the mediation," Watkins writes.
Stockley's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, says in documents filed Tuesday that the former officer did not know anything about a conflict of interest with Redwing. In fact, Stockley never even realized Redwing had transferred his case to another attorney, Bruntrager wrote.
Watkins says he has recently learned through a source that the police board met prior to mediation in the civil case and approved a cap of $1 million for the settlement, a figure determined in part because of the lab results. Had known about the DNA back then, Watkins claims, he would have pushed for a lot more money than the eventual $900,000 settlement.
He is asking a federal judge to reopen discovery — the process by which parties exchange evidence and records — in the case. He also wants to force the release of the full report of the investigation commissioned by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. The investigation was conducted by former federal prosecutor Hal Goldsmith, now with St. Louis-based law firm Bryan Cave.
An edited version of the report was released in December. Among the conclusions, Goldsmith found that Redwing knew about the lab reports and did not provide them to Smith's family. The reasons for that omission, however, are unclear, the investigation found.
The lab reports had been given to the U.S. Attorney and Circuit Attorney, who were both reviewing the case. But the results were not in the Attorney General's file, leading to the possibility they were accidentally left out of materials supplied by the police department.
Goldsmith has sought waivers from the now-dissolved Board of Police Commissioners and Stockley to release the full report. The city and Stockley have both opposed its release, arguing it would violate attorney-client privilege.
Lawyers for the Attorney General have said Hawley would be open to allowing Watkins an in-camera, or private, viewing of Goldsmith's report. If any wrongdoing is discovered, they argue, the Attorney General's office should not be sanctioned as a whole. They said they would not take a position on whether Redwing, who worked under the previous Attorney General, should be sanctioned.
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