A man convicted of killing another man who spilled beer on him at a Sauget convenience store won a new trial Tuesday because jurors were shown a piece of evidence they weren’t supposed to see.
The defendant, Lamarc R. Garrett, 35, of St. Louis was found guilty on Aug. 2 of first-degree murder in connection with the killing of Oscar C. Carbajal of St. Louis.
Judge Randall Kelley granted Garrett a new trial Tuesday after the defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor informed him of the evidence mixup.
In September 2015, Carbajal accidentally spilled beer on Garrett’s shoes after a verbal altercation, according to police. Garrett walked to his car at a gas pump, got in and then walked back to Carbajal, shot Carbajal and fled, police say.
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The shooting was captured on video.
When the judge announced he was granting a retrial, Garrett’s mother stood and exclaimed “thank you Jesus” multiple times.
The jury was accidentally shown an evidence receipt that referred to a weapon that was owned by Garrett but was not the gun used in Carbajal’s shooting.
Carbajal was shot with a .45-caliber handgun. The gun, casings and ammunition were all shown as evidence to the jury.
Garrett had a .357-caliber handgun and ammunition in his possession when arrested. At the time of the trial, the prosecution and the defense agreed that evidence about the .357-caliber gun should not be presented to jurors.
During the trial, an evidence receipt referring to the .357-caliber handgun was attached to another piece of evidence that was shown to the jury. Defense attorneys Brian Flynn and Gregory Nester, in a motion seeking a new trial, argued that the jury being made aware of the .357-caliber gun “prejudiced the jury against the defendant.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Sallerson did not argue against the defense motion. Prosecutors had interviewed a juror after the trial, and the juror mentioned the evidence receipt. Prosecutors informed the defense that the juror said the .357-caliber gun was taken into consideration by the jury.
Kelley, in his ruling, said there was no alternative but to grant a retrial.
The jury trial began on July 31 and six witnesses, including two of Carbajal’s friends who said they saw the shooting, testified about what led up to the fatal shooting.
According to witness testimonies, Carbajal was with two friends at a gas station after getting back from a nearby club. One of his friends bought a 12-pack of beer at the walk-up window from the cashier, who said she sold the beer to Fernando de la Tore.
De la Torre testified that after he bought the beer, a man came up behind him and asked for one. De la Torre agreed, but Carbajal, watching from the car, thought the man was “trying to start something,” according his friend Fernando Vargas-Rentana.
Carbajal walked up to the men and called Garrett a racial slur and said black people “want everything for free,” urging De la Torre not to give Garrett a beer, Vargas-Rentana said.
De la Torre started handing the beer to Carbajal and accidentally dropped it, breaking some of the bottles and splashing beer onto Garrett’s shoes, according to authorities. Another witness said Garrett responded by saying, “you gonna buy me new shoes?”
A person believed to be Garrett is seen on video surveillance walking to his car at a gas pump, getting in, placing the pump in the gas tank and then walking back to the men, who were buying a replacement case of beer.
The footage shows a gunman pulling a handgun from under his shirt and shooting Carbajal. The shooter then drove away.
At trial, Vargas-Rentana identified Garrett in court as the shooter and said he picked him out of six photos police showed him on the night of the shooting.
A date for the retrial has not been set.