Ex-cop Jason Stockley found not guilty in black motorist's death

Ex-cop Jason Stockley found not guilty in black motorist's death
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Former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder for the 2011 shooting death of a black motorist, Anthony Lamar Smith, by a judge Friday morning.

In his decision, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote that the state had not proven Stockley did not act in self-defense when he shot Smith after a police chase in December of 2011.

"This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense," Wilson wrote, according to CNN. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner told CNN she was "disappointed" in the ruling.

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An attorney for Smith's family condemned the ruling and called for protesters to remain peaceful while stressing the city has "a right to be mad."

"What the country needs to know is every single person in our country, we have a right to be mad," Al Watkins said after the verdict. "We have a right to disagree. We have a right to express our opinion. We have a right to protest."

"Exploit that right, don't compromise it. Stay peaceful," he added.

Stockley shot Smith dead following a police chase in 2011 after the officer and his partner allegedly saw Smith involved in a drug deal. Defense attorneys argued that Smith was reaching for a handgun found in the car, but DNA evidence found only Stockley's DNA on the gun. Prosecutors believe Stockley planted the gun on Smith after the shooting occurred.

Stockley left the department in 2013, and later that year St. Louis police settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Smith's surviving family.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) announced Friday that he has activated Missouri's National Guard in response to threats of protests. He also said in the statement that he will protect the rights of protesters while ensuring that laws remain enforced.

“We know this verdict causes pain for many people," Greitens said in a statement.
 
"I'm committed to protecting everyone's constitutional right to protest peacefully, while also protecting people's lives, homes, and communities. For anyone who protests, please do so peacefully.”