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  1. #1
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    Little trial sure to spark debate

    Little trial sure to spark debate
    By William C. Lhotka
    Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Mar. 26 2005

    The trial of Rams defensive end Leonard Little on allegations of drunken
    driving and speeding in Ladue is set to begin Monday with jury selection that
    may take as long as the presentation of evidence and arguments.

    To the sports fan, Little is the stalwart who has anchored the left side of the
    Rams' defensive line and made the Pro Bowl.

    Beyond the sports pages, Little was the obscure rookie linebacker who in
    October 1998 drove his Lincoln Navigator through a red light downtown and
    collided with a car driven by Susan Gutweiler, 47, of Oakville, who was killed.

    In June 1999, Little admitted he had been drunk that night and pleaded guilty
    of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 1,000 hours
    of community service and four years of probation. That prompted a public debate
    over whether the penalty was enough - and whether Little got favored treatment.

    It is the Gutweiler death that makes this week's prosecution of Little in St.
    Louis County Circuit Court a major case.

    A Missouri law passed in 2001 says a person accused of drunken driving can be
    charged as a persistent offender if there is a prior manslaughter conviction.
    So instead of facing a municipal ordinance violation or a state misdemeanor
    charge, which are common in DUI cases, Little is charged with a felony that
    carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

    While the charge is a felony only because of the prior conviction, prosecutor
    Mark Bishop cannot mention the Gutweiler case in court. Judge Emmett M. O'Brien
    barred it in an order sought by defense attorneys Scott Rosenblum and John
    Rogers.

    "Defense motion to exclude references to prior bad acts, uncharged conduct and
    inflammatory hearsay . . . specifically any reference to defendant's arrest,
    plea and sentence in St. Louis . . . is sustained," O'Brien wrote in an order
    issued Wednesday.

    Legal experts say Bishop has one way around the order. He could use the
    conviction to attack Little's credibility, if Little testifies.

    Little, 30, of St. Charles, pleaded not guilty of the charges at his
    arraignment.

    Questioning of prospective jurors is expected to follow two main themes - how
    much each knows about the prior case and how much each knows about Little's
    football prowess - and whether either would stand in the way of a fair verdict.
    In high-profile cases, potential jurors often are questioned individually at
    the judge's bench, outside the earshot of the others. The process in this case
    is expected to be lengthy.

    The key prosecution witness in the trial will be Ladue police Officer Gregory
    Stork.

    At 3:44 a.m. on April 24 last year, Stork's patrol car was on the shoulder of
    westbound Highway 40, just past the McKnight Road overpass, when he clocked
    Little's westbound 2003 Mercedes at 78 mph in a 55 zone, police reported.

    In court records, Stork alleged the defendant smelled of alcohol, failed
    sobriety tests, admitted he had been drinking and refused to take a
    Breathalyzer test.

    Stork is a 13-year veteran of the department. Under questioning by Rogers in a
    deposition last month, Stork estimated that he has made from 300 to 350 arrests
    for drunken driving.

    Defense attorneys have listed more than 40 witnesses, many of them medical
    experts at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Barnes Hospital West, although not all
    would necessarily be used. In addition, Rosenblum and Rogers subpoenaed 55
    pages of Little's medical records from Washington University Medical Center and
    101 pages of Little's medical and business records at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

    Also on the defense list as a potential witness is an expert in the
    administration of field sobriety tests, from Davie, Fla., and private
    investigators who looked into the case after Little's arrest.

    Besides Stork and other Ladue officers, Bishop has listed as possible witnesses
    Dr. Mary Case, the St. Louis County medical examiner; Christopher Long, a
    toxicologist in Case's office; and Michael Bruder, a toxicologist at St. Louis
    University Hospital.

    O'Brien rejected requests by Court TV and the local news media to allow cameras
    in his courtroom in Clayton. Such decisions are up to the discretion of the
    trial judge.



  2. #2
    general counsel Guest

    Re: Little trial sure to spark debate

    Two interesting legal points caught my eye.

    1) The judge sided with the defense and will not allow the prosecution to mention the prior manslaughter conviction. Big win for little.

    2) The arresting officer has over 300 drunken driving arrests. Bad for leonard. Lots of credibility in all those arrests in terms of experience to identify DUI behavior.

    The case comes down to reasonable doubt. I would be shocked beyond belief if leonard testifies. Imposssible to state odds at this point. Jury selection is clearly critical.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel

  3. #3
    moklerman's Avatar
    moklerman is offline Registered User
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    Re: Little trial sure to spark debate

    Can Rams fans even comment on this issue without bias? Granted, we all like seeing Little succeed on the field but if this had been Randy Moss, Terrel Owens or Rodney Harrison would there be such a lack of criticism?

    I don't know the facts and I wasn't there but I'm pretty confident that if this was one of the other players I mentioned, benefit of the doubt and innocent until proven guilty would have been non-factors.

    As much as the Rams need defensive help, if it's found out that Little was drunk driving again I hope he gets the maximum penalty. Little already got off light the first time, if he's guilty this time I don't want to ever see him on a football field again.

  4. #4
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    SFCRamFan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Little trial sure to spark debate

    Quote Originally Posted by moklerman
    As much as the Rams need defensive help, if it's found out that Little was drunk driving again I hope he gets the maximum penalty. Little already got off light the first time, if he's guilty this time I don't want to ever see him on a football field again.
    I agree 100% with you. If he is proven guilty he should serve the max. If you or I had run a light and killed someone then we would have rec'd much more than the slap on the wrist that he got. Also, if my family member had been killed then I would be outraged; and then he gets caught driving drunk again! As fans, we seem to only be looking at the needs of the team and overlooking what may be a gross injustice... :disappoin
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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  5. #5
    HUbison's Avatar
    HUbison is offline Superbowl MVP
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    Re: Little trial sure to spark debate

    This whole situation is kind of like that crazy uncle at the family reunion that nobody talks about. You know, if you don't make eye contact he won't come over and talk to you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mok
    Granted, we all like seeing Little succeed on the field but if this had been Randy Moss, Terrel Owens or Rodney Harrison would there be such a lack of criticism?
    Mok, I see your point, but there is a difference. Those players you mentioned are all very verbose and media craving. Little tends to shy away from a microphone. That is enough of a difference to keep him in a bit more anonymity, which I'm sure both he and his attorney's want in this situation. I'm not excusing any action, I'm just saying it makes him a little less obnoxious.

    If a jury finds him guilty (and I'm not talking about a guilty plea, as part of some bargain), then he needs to rot in prison as should anyone who is found guilty of driving drunk. But if he is found anything but guilty, then my opinion will be no different than the courts. He and everyone else involved should be allowed to get on with their lives.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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