Of­fi­cer unique in opt­ing for trial with­out a jury

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION -

ST. LOUIS | The fate of a for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer ac­cused of killing a sus­pect rests with a judge, not a jury of his peers. Ex­perts say that given the pub­lic scru­tiny of re­cent po­lice shoot­ings, Ja­son Stock­ley’s de­ci­sion to opt for a bench trial makes sense.

Mr. Stock­ley, 36, who is white, is charged with first-de­gree mur­der in the De­cem­ber 2011 death of An­thony La­mar Smith, a 24-year-old black drug sus­pect who was shot af­ter lead­ing po­lice on a chase.

The trial be­fore vet­eran Cir­cuit Judge Ti­mothy Wil­son be­gan Tues­day and is ex­pected to last about two weeks.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion spells out that peo­ple ac­cused of crimes have the right to have their cases heard “by an im­par­tial jury,” but de­fen­dants can opt to have the ver­dict ren­dered by a judge.

The St. Louis area has been the site of sev­eral shoot­ings of black sus­pects

by po­lice of­fi­cers in the three years since 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and un­armed, was fa­tally shot by white of­fi­cer Dar­ren Wil­son in nearby Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri.

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