A man accused of shooting and injuring a Sedalia man in March has been found not guilty.
After a three-day trial at the Pettis County Courthouse, the jury reached a verdict Wednesday evening, deciding Carlos E. Staten, 28, of Kansas City, was not guilty in a shooting the night of March 7 in the 600 block of South Washington Avenue. Staten had been charged with first degree assault, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm.
The alleged shooting injured 32-year-old Elmer J. Miley Jr., of the 300 block of East Cooper Street, who was taken to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Sedalia Police Department Sgt. Kelley Casto told the Democrat in March they had identified Staten as a suspect based on statements from Miley and witnesses in the area.
Casto said Staten was supposed to come to the SPD station to talk with detectives later that week, but he never showed up. Staten was arrested on a warrant for the shooting about two weeks later at a residence in the 300 block of East Cooper Street.
“We had a really good solid eye witness (Miley),” Pettis County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Bill Chapman said by phone Thursday. “… These people knew each other, had known each other for a while. We’re not talking about a fleeting glance of someone running down an alley, this was somebody who walked up and stood there for awhile, talked before the shooting occurred (according to Miley’s testimony).
“There were bullet shell casings around, there was no doubt where the shooting had occurred,” he added.
Staten was represented by Public Defender Matthew Mueller, who said by phone Thursday it was the physical evidence that he believes pointed to Staten’s innocence.
“For me, the ballistics evidence didn’t support the alleged victim’s account of what happened,” Mueller said. “… There was video surveillance footage that captured Carlos an hour and a half before the shooting. The jury saw what he was wearing, how he was acting, what he was doing. It was my suggestion to the jury, I had an expert testify, that based on what Carlos was wearing and how he was moving, it was unlikely he had a gun on him; there was no evidence suggesting he did.
“Carlos has some deformities and injuries to his hands, and based on the evidence and the fact he had these conditions I didn’t think it was possible for Carlos to actually fire a weapon.”
According to court documents, Miley sustained three gunshot wounds, one in the right forearm, one in the left shoulder and one in the abdomen. Detectives processing the scene found four .380 caliber shell casings in front of Miley’s apartment. Three bullets were also recovered and there was a blood trail leading from Elmer’s porch to the porch of another apartment Miley told officers he walked to after being shot.
“They had Elmer get up and say Carlos shot him, and Carlos testified and said he didn’t shoot (Miley),” Mueller said. “The point I wanted to make was there were conflicting accounts, but the jury should focus on the physical evidence because it doesn’t lie. … It all suggested Carlos was not the shooter.”
Chapman noted that while Miley was a “good, solid eye witness,” he was the only witness — no one else was allegedly outside other than Miley and Staten. There were several other people around who heard gunshots, but no one else who saw the incident occur.
“There wasn’t much to corroborate the eye witness, the victim,” Chapman said. “The jury is entitled to look at that and decide they’re just not sure. If there’s doubt, the defendant gets the benefit of it.”
As Staten’s defender, Mueller said he was pleased with the outcome, as was Staten, who broke down in tears because “he was so happy and relieved” when the verdict was read Wednesday, according to Mueller. Chapman said he wouldn’t have filed the charges if he didn’t think he could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but he “respects” the jury’s decision.
SPD Detective Travis St. Cyr said the case remains closed, as Staten was the only suspect and there are no other leads to investigate.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.