Bowling Green State University

St. Louis officer unique in opting for trial without a jury

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.

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...