How long is too long to render verdict? News 4 Investigates exam - KMOV.com

How long is too long to render verdict? News 4 Investigates examines other cases ahead of Stockley verdict

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Former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley (Credit: Police) Former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley (Credit: Police)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Only a judge is deciding the guilt or innocence of the former St. Louis officer.

As anxiety builds for that verdict, the city continues to prepare for possible protests.

Jason Stockley is accused of murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith in north St. Louis. The trial in the case wrapped up August 9. Judge Timothy Wilson heard the case after Stockley waived his rights to a jury trial. 

Bench trials, especially those for murder, are very rare, according to experts.

A News 4 investigation, though, revealed that in some cases judges take a while to render a verdict.  

SLU law professor Marcia McCormick told News 4 that under the law, Judge Wilson can take about as much time as he needs to render a verdict in the Stockley trial.

“Judges often render verdicts more quickly than juries might, but in a case this complicated, it's not surprising the judge would want to take the most time in order to reach a just verdict,” McCormick said.

So News 4 took a look at how long it's taken judges to reach verdicts in other murder cases in our area in recent years. 

In Lincoln County, Russ Faria was acquitted of murder; the judge made the decision within the week of the trial.

In St. Louis, Anthony Moore was convicted of murdering his children back in 2007. The judge took two weeks to decide.

In St. Louis County, Webster Groves nurse Denise Hein was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2016. The judge in that case took a little less than two months to render a verdict.

And back in the city, Justin Johnson was found guilty of murder back in 2011. That judge took more than four months to decide.

McCormick says the judge could take timing or opportunity into account when rendering a verdict---or he could not.

“Presumably most judges would say they would issue a verdict when they say they are ready when they feel like they've come to the right conclusion,” McCormick said.

Exactly how judges issue verdicts in these types of cases can vary too.

For example, in the case that took four months, the judge issued a 20-page document explaining the guilty verdict.

A lot remains to be seen in the case against Jason Stockley. 

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