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Analysis: Prosecutors Retrying 2 St. Louis Cops Face Tough Road To Conviction

040621_flickrPaulSableman_EagletonCourthouse.jpg Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse downtown St. Louis federal court
Flickr / Paul Sableman
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Federal prosecutors say they will again try two St. Louis officers accused of beating an undercover colleague.

Federal prosecutors said yesterday they will again try two former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers accused of beating an undercover colleague.

The jury had deadlocked last week on one charge each against former officers Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone. Myers was found not guilty of a second, more serious charge in the two-week trial, while officer Steven Korte was fully acquitted and cannot be tried again.

The trio was charged with beating then-officer Luther Hall as he worked undercover at a Sept. 17, 2017 protest. The officers allegedly mistook Hall, who is Black, for a protester and left him with severe injuries to his jaw and neck, as well as a ruptured gall bladder and a concussion.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, attorney Javad Khazaeli said the case likely came down to jury selection. Because the case was being tried in federal court, the pool came from the entire eastern half of Missouri — with far different racial composition than a city or even county jury, and likely much different political leanings.

“You can only do so much once the jury is chosen,” he said, noting that an all-white jury was originally empaneled. (A Black woman later replaced someone who’d suffered a family emergency.)

“Virtually all of the jury was from southern portions of Missouri. If you have a jury that walks in that already has preconceived notions about whether they're willing to hold police accountable … I don't know what was going on in the jury's mind. I did see we had one interview with one of the jurors, where he said that there wasn't enough physical evidence. And that seemed very strange to me, because there were multiple officers who testified to seeing these people being a part of the beatdown. And then you had their own words and texts saying, ‘I did this.’”

A partner with Khazaeli Wyrsch and a former federal prosecutor, Khazaeli estimated that he watched 80% of the trial last month — and heard multiple pieces of testimony that he hopes will help his clients. He has 13 lawsuits pending against the city over the night of Sept. 17, 2017, including a class-action lawsuit representing more than 100 people.

The plaintiffs allege that they were beaten and wrongfully arrested by St. Louis officers. No St. Louis officer has been charged criminally for actions that night, other than in the case involving Hall.

Khazaeli acknowledged that Hall suffered by far the most serious injuries of those attacked by police that night. But, he noted, some of the civil cases he’s pursuing have much stronger evidence against specific officers.

“I think a fair question is, why is the U.S. Attorney's Office willing to go through all of these steps when a police officer is injured? But when it's a citizen, there's apparently a whole different set of rules as to whether or not police should be charged for beating citizens,” he said.

He added: “Multiple officers admitted that the reason they didn't remember anything happening to Luther Hall was that so many people were getting beaten all weekend [and] that this was typical. That this didn't stand out to them, that this would not have been a big deal if it wasn't an undercover police officer.”

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, who handled the previous trial, has scheduled Myers and Boone’s second trial to begin June 7.

Dustin Boone again faces a charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law, while Myers faces a charge of destruction of evidence. Prosecutors say he destroyed Hall’s phone in an attempt to ruin a recording of the attack.

A juror previously told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the jury was deadlocked 10-2 on the charge against Myers and split 6-6 on the charge against Boone.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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