By Abby Williams and Eliza Guion
In a mere seven minutes, the jury unanimously cleared Lawrence Stoker of criminal charges on Nov. 21 in the El Paso County Courthouse.
Stoker, 19, cousin of De’Von Bailey, was with Bailey when he was killed by Colorado Springs Police Officers Alan Van’t Land and Blake Evenson on Aug. 3. On Nov. 15, a grand jury declined to indict the two officers.
Bailey’s death was precipitated by a phone call to the police dispatch from Anthony Love, who reported Bailey and his cousin Stoker for robbery and assault.
The defense argued that at the time of the call to dispatch, Love was drunk, high, and acting from a bruised ego following a scuffle with Stoker. Both sides agreed that a fight between Stoker and Love took place the afternoon of Aug. 3. The prosecution argued that Stoker assaulted Love, and the defense argued that Stoker was acting in self-defense.
The prosecution brought Love and multiple police officers to the stand to testify. The officers’ testimonies portrayed Love as a credible source and described Love’s injuries following the fight.
The defense brought multiple witnesses to the stand to corroborate Stoker’s version of events. All were friends or acquaintances of Stoker preceding the events of Aug. 3, prompting the prosecution to question whether their testimonies would be biased in Stoker’s favor.
When the prosecution asked if he wanted to keep anything bad from happening to Stoker, Adrian Rivera, a friend, replied, “Not even just that, I want the truth to be told.” An audible “ooo” filled the courtroom in response.
A week after the grand jury decision, Stoker faced a single charge of misdemeanor assault. However, two days into the trial, the prosecution added two new charges. The defense claimed the prosecution was purposefully overcharging Stoker in hopes of leading the jury to compromise and find at least one guilty verdict.
In closing arguments, the prosecution claimed the defense was “bringing up things not applicable to this assault,” seeming to imply the context of Bailey’s death was irrelevant to the charges at hand. To the contrary, the defense argued that the criminalization of Stoker is a means for the police to rationalize the killing of Bailey.
“It was tragic, the entire situation was just tragic,” said Juror Casey Knowlton, Senior Assistant Director of Admission at CC.
Reflecting on his experience, Knowlton added, “Our deliberations did not last long — we were all on the same page in believing that this incident would likely not have been brought to court had it not been directly related to such a highly publicized and tragic event.”
“They just want a conviction so that they can justify everything that happened,” said Stoker’s attorney, Dan Kay, addressing the jury in closing arguments. “You’re the only people who can hold the police accountable.”