In a city where gun crimes are an everyday occurrence, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Steven Ohmer made an example out of James Green, 67, in February. Last November, an all-white jury had taken about an hour to decide the 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound African-American man’s fate on four charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. For four guilty verdicts, Ohmer handed down a sentence of 60 years, far more than the seven recommended by prosecutors, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch..
“I never thought I’d see St. Louis again, except on TV,” Green said. Last month, the judge reversed the sentence and set Green free, not even putting him on probation. What happened? “Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Green says. Public defender Julie Fogelberg filed a motion seeking to set aside the verdict or order a new trial based on multiple violations of Green’s constitutional rights during the trial, most related to decisions made by Ohmer. She charged that the judge dropped the hammer on Green because he was mad that the 67-year-old dared to exercise his right to trial. In an interview, the judge denied that, but he said, Fogelberg convinced him “there were some legal issues. … So I tried to do the fair thing.”