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Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

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  • Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    By William C. Lhotka
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 21 2004

    St. Louis Rams defensive stalwart Leonard Little is trying an end run around
    county courts to get his pending felony drunken driving charge dismissed.

    The Pro Bowl defensive lineman has petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court to
    throw out the felony indictment on the grounds that the law authorizing the
    charge is unconstitutional.

    The dismissal request before the high court is pending, Beth Riggert, the
    Supreme Court's communications director, confirmed Monday, and the judges could
    rule on the matter as early as this afternoon.

    Little's attorneys, James Bennett and K. Lee Marshall of the Bryan Cave law
    firm, are contending that a spate of U.S. Supreme Court rulings since 2000
    relating to a defendant's right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment
    apply in Little's case.

    Specifically, the lawyers say in court documents filed with the Missouri
    Supreme Court that by Missouri law, a judge, not a jury, has decided that
    Little is a persistent offender, and the statute that makes his pending case a
    felony therefore fails to pass muster.

    Bennett and Marshall's arguments were rejected July 30 by St. Louis County
    Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien and Nov. 3 by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

    Mark Bishop, the assistant prosecutor trying Little, argued in his recent reply
    that the lower courts acted properly and the Supreme Court should reach the
    same conclusions.

    If the high court rules otherwise, the decision could be devastating statewide,
    Bishop said, and affect a dozen other statutes, including six sex abuse laws in
    which new charges become felonies because of prior misdemeanor convictions.

    Little pleaded guilty of involuntary manslaughter six years ago in a drunken
    driving accident downtown that took the life of Susan Gutweiler.

    At 3:44 a.m. on April 26, Ladue police Officer Greg Stork stopped Little on
    Interstate 64 (Highway 40) at Lindbergh Boulevard. Stork alleged that he
    clocked Little's 2003 Mercedes at 78 mph in a 55-mph zone.

    Stork said the defendant smelled of alcohol, failed sobriety tests, admitted he
    had been drinking and refused a Breathalyzer test.

    Because of his prior conviction for manslaughter, under a law passed by the
    Legislature in 2001, Little is a persistent offender. If he is convicted of the
    pending drunken driving charge, Little will face a maximum of four years in
    prison as a felon, instead of jail time.

    Under a series of rulings beginning in 2000 and culminating in Blakely v.
    Washington this year, the U.S. Supreme Court has moved steadily toward a theory
    that only juries, not judges, can enhance punishment.

    Little's lawyers say the prior conviction is an element of felony drunken
    driving. All elements in an indictment must be proved to a jury, the lawyers
    say, but Missouri law requires the judge and not the jury to determine the
    element of a prior conviction.

    Therefore, O'Brien, the trial judge, has no option but to throw out the charge,
    and his failure to do so is "an abuse of discretion and usurpation of judicial
    power," the lawyers say. Bennett and Marshall say three states have followed
    that logic.

    Bishop, the prosecutor, says judges in Illinois and 10 other states agree with
    the prosecution theory that persistent offender language is a sentencing
    enhancement provision, not an element of a separate and distinct crime.

    Even if parts of the persistent offender statute for drunken driving were to be
    found invalid, Bishop argued, the proper remedy would be for a jury to decide
    whether Little should be tried as a persistent offender. Bennett and Marshall
    say the Legislature would have to write a new law.

    On a different front, court records show that Little's trial attorneys, Scott
    Rosenblum and John Rogers, are seeking all of Stork's arrest records for the
    year prior to his arrest of Little. Bishop is arguing that those records should
    be confidential.

  • #2
    Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    This is a bit of a "Hail Mary" of a legal argument. Not to say it can't work, but I wouldn't bet on Little avoiding a trial as a result of this argument.


    • #3
      Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

      It's about this time when it pays to have a lawyer as a member of the board.


      • #4
        Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

        Avenger, can you translate for us? This article confused me. Simple language for simple minds, ok....


        Related Topics


        • RamDez
          Little trial sure to spark debate
          by RamDez
          Little trial sure to spark debate
          By William C. Lhotka
          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

          "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

          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...
          -03-26-2005, 06:10 AM
        • RamWraith
          Judge will not move Little's trial
          by RamWraith
          By Peter Shinkle
          Of the Post-Dispatch


          St. Louis County Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien today denied a motion for change of venue in Leonard Little's drunken driving case.

          A little after 3:30 this afternoon, the prosecutor and defense attorneys in the case emerged from O'Brien's chambers, and O'Brien announced he had denied the motion "under the law." He declined to give any further reason for his ruling.

          Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said he could not comment on the case. "We can't talk about it. You've got to ask the judge."

          The prosecution and defense have reached an agreement not to comment publicly on the case until it goes to trial, O'Brien said. "There is not a court-ordered gag order," he said.

          The case is tentatively set for trial March 28.

          Our earlier story:

          A judge pulled about 20 people from the St. Louis County jury pool Tuesday to test whether the persistent drunken driving case against St. Louis Rams star Leonard Little should be tried elsewhere because of publicity, as his lawyers have asked.

          Questioning revealed at least that most of the jurors were aware of Little's football fame. One woman was not; one man called him "the greatest defensive end that we have."

          Judge Emmett M. O'Brien asked jurors to describe what they knew about Little, possibly to test for awareness of the 1998 drunken driving crash downtown that killed a woman and left Little convicted of involunatary manslaughter.

          Eventually, O'Brien invited Little and lawyers for both sides into a private session in his chambers for further discussions with the test jurors, presumably one at a time. O'Brien denied a reporter's request to attend. The inquiry is intended to give the judge more information, and is not the actual selection of a jury for Little's trial. It was not clear when O'Brien would rule on the motion to move the case.

          Little was arrested on Highway 40 in Ladue about 4 a.m. April 24, accused of driving 78 mpg in a 55 zone and drunken driving. Police said he refused a breath test. County prosecutors charged him as a persistent DUI offender.

          Little was arrested April 24 along Interstate 64 in Ladue and charged with driving under the influence and speeding. Police say he failed three field sobriety tests.

          In 1998 Little plead guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a traffic accident in St. Louis that killed Susan Gutweiler of St. Louis County.

          He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in that case, completed a three-month jail sentence, 1,000 hours of community service and four years of probation. He was also suspended without pay for the first half of the 1999 season.

          Little went to his first Pro Bowl after last season, when he was fifth in...
          -10-12-2004, 02:47 PM
        • RamWraith
          Little gets two years probation
          by RamWraith
          By William C. Lhotka
          Of the Post-Dispatch

          A judge sentenced Rams defensive end Leonard Little to two years of probation for driving 78 miles an hour on Highway 40 last year in Ladue.

          St. Louis County Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien rejected a request today by prosecutor Mark Bishop that Little get 30 days in jail as shock time. The judge told the Pro Bowl athlete that he is barred from consuming alcoholic beverages as a special condition of probation and a violation would result in a six-month jail sentence.

          On April 1, a jury of 11 women and one man convicted Little of speeding, a misdemeanor, but acquitted him of driving while intoxicated, a felony. Prosecutors had charged Little with the felony because he pleaded guilty in a manslaughter case six years ago in which he admitted he was drunk, In his Lincoln Navigator, he ran a redlight downtown and collided with a car driven by Susan Gutweiler, 47, of Oakville, who was killed.

          Little's 2003 Mercedes was stopped at 3:44 a.m. April, 24, 2004 on Highway 40 near Lindbergh Boulevard. Ladue police officer Gregory Stork said he clocked Little at 78 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone.

          Stork alleged that Little flunked three field sobriety tests. At Little's trial, defense attorney Scott Rosenblum put the officer on trial during three hours of cross-examination on March 31 and in closing arguments on April 1. Rosenblum said a back-up police officer contradicted Stork about Little's actions at the time of his arrest and Stork failed to follow proper procedures in administering the tests.

          Bishop had argued that Little refused to take a breath analysis test at the Ladue police station because he was drunk. Little used ``the two beers defense'' that night, Bishop said. Whenever drunks are stopped by police, they, like Little. always say they had two beers, Bishop told the jury.

          In sentencing Little, O'Brien told the football player: ``I'm told you do not intend to drink and drive, or consume any alcoholic beverages. If you fulfill your promise, you will have no problems.''
          -05-06-2005, 02:28 PM
        • AvengerRam_old
          Prosecutor Criticizes Rams For Supporting Little At Trial
          by AvengerRam_old
          Prosecutors say state law hampered ability to prosecute St. Louis Rams' defensive end

          Associated Press

          CLAYTON, Mo. - Prosecutors said their inability to present the results of portable breath tests hampered the prosecution of St. Louis Rams' player Leonard Little.

          The Pro Bowl defensive end, who previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a 1998 drunken-driving crash, was found innocent of drunken driving Friday by a St. Louis County jury.

          A preliminary breath test indicated Little's blood-alcohol content was 0.13 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, when he was stopped for speeding April 24 on Interstate 64 in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb.

          But state law makes results from portable breath tests inadmissible, and prosecutors said Little refused to take a follow-up test.

          Jurors also weren't told of the alcohol-related manslaughter charge. Little served three months in jail and completed 1,000 hours of community service and four years of probation for the crash in downtown St. Louis that killed Susan Gutweiler of St. Louis County. He was also suspended without pay for the first half of the 1999 season.

          Because of the previous conviction, Little could have faced up to four years in prison along with another suspension from the NFL if convicted in the most recent case.

          "Why they gave him a break is something I cannot answer," said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. "I can't help think that if the jury had all the information, that he was approaching twice the legal limit, there would have been a different outcome."

          Scott Rosenblum, Little's defense attorney, said during the trial that Little had had only two beers and was not intoxicated when stopped by police.

          "It was an uphill battle," Rosenblum said. "We came in with a lot of preconceived notions against us."

          During the trial, Ladue Officer Gregory Stork testified that Little failed three field sobriety tests. Results from portable breath tests aren't admissible because the equipment involved is not considered as reliable as the fixed tests, where equipment is regularly maintained and calibrated by technicians.

          Little refused to submit to a breath analysis test at the Ladue police station.

          Rosenblum argued at trial that the officer had a goal to get a high number of driving-while-intoxicated arrests on his record. Stork also acknowledged in court that the sobriety tests he administered to Little varied from established police procedures

          "I think the state's primary witness was determined not to be credible by the jury," Rosenblum said. "He demonstrated that he was not properly administering field sobriety tests."

          McCulloch said drunken-driving cases are generally difficult to try...
          -04-04-2005, 07:50 AM
        • RamWraith
          Missouri Supreme Court refuses to throw out charge against Little
          by RamWraith
          Dec. 21, 2004
 wire reports

          ST. LOUIS -- The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Leonard Little's request to have a felony drunken driving charge thrown out, declining comment on his claim that the law behind the count is unconstitutional.

          Attorneys for the Rams defensive end argued that under Missouri law, a jury, not as a judge, should have decided whether Little is a persistent offender, given his previous conviction in a 1998 drunken-driving wreck that killed a woman.

          The prosecutor, Mark Bishop, countered in legal filings that a St. Louis County judge and the Missouri Court of Appeals have rejected Little's claims, and that Missouri's high court should do the same.

          Among other things, Little argued that U.S. Supreme Court rulings since 2000 relating to a defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial applied in his case.

          Little is scheduled to go to on trial March 28 on charges that he was driving under the influence and speeding when stopped by police early on the morning of April 24 in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue. Police said he was traveling 78 mph in a 55-mph zone.

          Police say he failed three field sobriety tests.

          In 1998, Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a St. Louis crash that killed Susan Gutweiler. Little's blood-alcohol level was nearly twice Missouri's legal limit.

          Little completed a three-month jail sentence, 1,000 hours of community service and four years of probation. He also was suspended without pay for the first half of the 1999 season.

          Little went to his first Pro Bowl after last season, when he was fifth in the NFL with 12 1/2 sacks. This season, Little leads the Rams with 5 sacks and his 61-yard fumble return accounted for the Rams' only score in Sunday's 31-7 loss at Arizona.

          The NFL has said Little, if convicted, could face another suspension under terms of its substance-abuse policy.
          AP NEWS
          The Associated Press News Service
          -12-21-2004, 06:42 PM