ST. LOUIS • The lawyer for a former city police officer charged with first-degree murder said Monday he will seek a bail reduction as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the police union added to criticism already lodged against Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce over the case.
The defendant, Jason Stockley, appeared in a video link from jail Monday morning to plead not guilty in an arraignment before Associate Judge Calea Stovall-Reid.
“We entered a plea of still not guilty,” defense lawyer Neil Bruntrager commented after the proceeding.
He said it probably will be May 31 before he can get a hearing on a motion asking Circuit Judge Michael Mullen to reconsider his order that Stockley be held without bail.
About two hours after the hearing, the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association announced that its executive board voted unanimously to declare it has no confidence in Joyce to prosecute the case fairly. The union had already called Friday for a special prosecutor.
The union’s leaders said the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police joined in the symbolic vote.
On Thursday, activists stood with the mother of Anthony Lamar Smith, the man Stockley killed in 2011, demanding that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch handle the case because they feel that Joyce cannot be trusted after waiting more than four years to file charges.
Joyce has announced she will not be seeking re-election.
Police union president Joseph Steiger said that leaves her an easy out should a jury not convict Stockley. “She can wipe her hands clean of this and say, ‘I tried,’ but it’s not on her,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Joyce declined to add Monday to her response to complaints last week. The prosecutor said then she is doing her duty based on evidence as it became available.
In a statement Friday, Joyce said, in part, that if activists and the officers’ union were both unhappy, “I must be doing something right.”
Stockley was arrested at home in Houston on May 16 and moved from Texas after waiving his right to an extradition process.
Bruntrager said his client has shown that he is not a flight risk, in part by being “fully cooperative” in at least three interviews with the FBI after he fatally shot Smith on Dec. 20, 2011.
Federal and police investigators examined the case, in which Stockley said he fired in self-defense after an attempt to arrest Smith turned into a chase and a car crash. A gun and heroin were found in Smith’s car.
Joyce did not detail what new evidence prompted her to file charges a week ago. She has said there is DNA evidence that the police department did not tell her office about until this year.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan, whose office had examined the shooting for possible federal charges but passed, said Monday he met with Joyce last week to review the new evidence. He said his office received a DNA report in February 2012, but that Joyce’s office has a later one of which neither his office nor the FBI was aware.
Asked about its significance to a possible federal case, Callahan said, “It would have made a close call closer.”
He added, “I can’t say that it would have changed our charging decision, but at this point, we are at least exploring why we didn’t get that report.”
Dan Isom, who was city police chief when the shooting occurred, said Monday that both DNA reports showed only Stockley’s DNA on the gun taken from Smith’s car. He could not say when the second report was completed nor who received it.
“It still shows the same thing, the victim’s DNA was not on the gun, so what’s the difference?” Isom asked.
Activists have raised questions of whether Stockley planted the gun.
The Police Officers’ Association has complained of a “Ferguson effect” political bias in prosecution of police.
Its business manager, Jeff Roorda, said Monday: “When officers see wrongful prosecutions of their fellow officers, the effect can be a reluctance to do their jobs, and the people who suffer from it the most are the folks living in the worst neighborhoods.”
Roorda accused Joyce of favoring “vanity prosecutions” which garner media attention.
Callahan said he is not a fan of using special prosecutors in a high-profile cases.
“I am a man of faith when it comes to the criminal justice system and I believe that locally elected prosecutors are best situated to handle matters that occur within their jurisdiction,” he said. “And I also believe that a local prosecutor handling these matters means greater accountability to the community in the long run.”