Political News

Judge in St. Louis police shooting case known as objective

Posted 11:41 a.m. Friday
Updated 11:42 a.m. Friday

— The judge who acquitted a white former St. Louis police officer in the death of a black man is described as objective and well-respected by prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who must retire when he turns 70 in December, has ruled both for and against police during his 28 years on the bench.

"He's very methodical and a very objective judge," Jack Garvey, a lawyer and former St. Louis circuit judge told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He really will review everything before he makes a decision. I don't think he's ideological in any way."

Wilson agreed to waive a jury trial and decide the case against St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley over the objection of prosecutors, writing that, "after 28 years serving as a trial judge, the Court is confident in its own judgment and analytical abilities."

Stockley was charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith following a high-speed chase. Stockley shot Smith five times, saying he saw Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors claimed Stockley planted a gun in Smith's car.

The fatal shooting of a black suspect by a white officer reignited racial tensions in a region still haunted by the events in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown's death in 2014.

But Wilson, who is white and a former federal prosecutor, wrote in his opinion Friday that he wasn't "firmly convinced of defendant's guilt," and was bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct to not be swayed by "partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism."

St. Louis defense lawyer Terence Niehoff told the Post-Dispatch that Wilson "doesn't just automatically believe the police," noting that the judge once acquitted a client of Niehoff's who was accused of pulling a gun on a police officer.

Wilson has presided over many high-profile cases, included a kickback scheme involving two former Anheuser-Busch executives and a St. Louis advertising executive in 1988. They all received prison terms.

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