Updated with a response from attorney Joel Poole.
ST. LOUIS — A special investigator’s report released Friday says top officials in the Missouri Attorney General’s office failed in 2016 to disclose that their office had known for years about DNA evidence in a fatal 2011 police shooting, concealing that information from lawyers, city officials and reporters.
The report was originally released in an edited form in 2017. It said that before lawyers for Smith’s daughter settled a civil case in 2013 for $900,000, an assistant attorney general failed to disclose that DNA evidence matching then-Officer Jason Stockley was the only DNA on a gun found with Anthony Lamar Smith after he was shot.
But the original report had confidential attorney-client communications edited out, including information known by police investigators and lawyers with then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office. The full report was released Friday as part of a $540,000 settlement with Smith’s family to resolve claims of a failure to turn over the DNA evidence.
Albert Watkins, a lawyer for Smith’s daughter, called the actions laid out in the report “squirrelly, sketchy and unlawful.”
“I have zero respect for the reckless dismantling and compromising of our federal civil rights judicial system and the attempted cover-up,” he said Friday. “These actions are not acceptable ever, anywhere in our judicial system.”
The DNA evidence was not disclosed in 2013 to Watkins, nor the mediator who helped settle the case, by an assistant attorney general, the report says. Watkins only found out in 2016, when Stockley was charged with Smith’s murder and the DNA evidence became public. Stockley was acquitted of all charges in 2017. Prosecutors at Stockley’s trial claimed he planted the revolver in Smith’s car. Stockley’s lawyers denied those claims and said Stockley thought Smith was reaching for a hidden handgun.
“People need to understand. This is really, really important stuff,” Watkins said, calling the report an example of the “wholesale compromise of the federal civil rights system.”
Watkins said that he had an obligation, under Missouri Supreme Court rules, to forward the report to the state body that disciplines lawyers, and did so immediately Friday.
The report’s author, Hal Goldsmith, declined to comment. Goldsmith conducted the investigation while at the Bryan Cave law firm, between stints in the U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis.
Michael Garvin, a deputy St. Louis city counselor, said Friday that, “All the events in the Stockley matter and the settlement occurred while the state was in charge of the police department. The city wasn’t providing any legal representation and we didn’t have any particular role, until we tried to clean it up.”
A spokesman for current Attorney General Eric Schmitt declined to comment, saying the office could not comment without a waiver from a representative of the former police board.
Koster declined to comment when contacted through a former aide.
The report identifies many of the lawyers using codes, like “AAG1“ for the first assistant attorney general referenced in the report. But the Post-Dispatch has confirmed the identities of all the lawyers in the report.
‘Extremely messy’ news
Stockley’s DNA was first identified on the gun in a Feb. 14, 2012, report. Smith’s DNA was not found on the revolver.
An unnamed police investigator considered the results significant. They were discussed during the investigation, within St. Louis Police Internal Affairs and with the Inspector of Police, the report says.
In July, Stockley’s DNA was also found on a screw on the revolver.
The report says the investigator told Goldsmith or his colleagues, “the Million Dollar question was how was Stockley’s DNA evidence on the gun, but the decedent Smith’s DNA was not?”
A federal civil suit that was filed on behalf of Smith’s daughter in February 2012 was pending at the time.
Although U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton ordered the Attorney General’s office in April, 2013, to produce all records from the Internal Affairs and FBI investigation to Watkins’ firm, the report says the DNA results were not included.
On June 6, 2013, Assistant Attorney General Dana Tucker, now Dana Redwing, learned some surprising and “extremely messy” news at a meeting with the Inspector of Police, the report says.
Tucker told the report’s investigators that she could not recall what the news was. There were also no written records, but the police official said he “most likely” shared the DNA news with Tucker.
Tucker didn’t mention the DNA results in a summary prepared for the police board on June 17, 2013, but the summary does say there was a “substantial chance” that Smith’s daughter would prevail in a civil suit. It also said “the currently available evidence raises serious questions as to whether the shooting occurred as stated.”
The next day, someone at Koster’s office also provided a “confidential mediation statement” to a mediator assigned to the civil case, but didn’t include the DNA results and contradicted Tucker’s summary by saying “there is nothing that specifically contradicts the officers’ versions of events.”
Tucker told the board on June 19, 2013, that Stockley’s DNA had been found on the revolver, and that she was concerned about that fact, and other issues. The meeting had been called to obtain authority to settle the case.
At the June 20 settlement conference, there was again no mention of the DNA results. The case was settled for $900,000.
Reached Friday, Jim Martin, a lawyer for Redwing, said “We’re very comfortable that everything she did was fully ethical.”
Evidence becomes public
After Stockley was arrested in 2016 and prosecutors said his DNA had been found on the gun, Joan Gummels, Koster’s general counsel, told Michael Garvin, a lawyer in the St. Louis city counselor’s office, on June 3 that “we do not have any DNA report on the firearm in any of our files, if that is what you mean by ‘lab tests.’” Gummels did not disclose that her office knew about the DNA evidence before the case was originally settled, and that Tucker had told the police board.
Gummels made essentially the same claim to Garvin and a representative of then-St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s office on June 22, 2016, the report says, and through a spokeswoman, to a Post-Dispatch reporter on June 23.
In a June 28 letter to Watkins, who had asked why evidence had not been turned over, Koster’s office again claimed that there was no “report,” but again failed to mention the office’s prior knowledge of the DNA evidence. Gummels was aware of the draft letter, which was sent by Joel Poole, the chief counsel of the litigation division, the report says.
Poole, in an email Friday night, said that he has not seen the unredacted report. But he said that any claims that he was aware that DNA evidence was withheld from Watkins are inaccurate, and that Goldsmith and his colleagues never contacted him during their investigation.
Poole said: “I would be disappointed to learn that the Goldsmith report claims that I was aware that DNA evidence had been withheld from the plaintiff’s counsel prior to the settlement in 2013 when I wrote the June 2016 letter, as that would be untrue. Moreover, I would have stated as much to Mr. Goldsmith or his associates had they contacted me during their investigation, which they did not do.”