There’s video of the killing. There are eyewitnesses. There is physical evidence.
There’s not a lot of doubt that Lamarc R. Garrett pulled a gun out of his waistband and killed Oscar Carbajal after a dispute over spilled beer early on Sept. 5, 2015, outside a Sauget convenience store.
The jury didn’t have a lot of trouble convicting him.
But just as Garrett was to be sentenced on Tuesday, Circuit Judge Randall Kelley stopped everything and granted him a new trial. Jurors were shown evidence that Garrett had a .357-caliber weapon in addition to the .45-caliber handgun used to kill Carbajal.
Prosecutors blew the whistle on themselves. They discovered the error and told the defense.
They had agreed with the defense not to get into discussion of the second gun at trial. But an evidence receipt listing the .357 was mistakenly shown to the jury. Prosecutors interviewed a juror after trial and learned the jury saw the receipt and even considered the second gun during deliberations.
Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Sallerson made no argument against a new trial before Kelley granted it.
Lot of temptation to allow the conviction to stand. Lot of prosecutors and members of the public more than happy to let Garrett be put away with so much evidence and a minor technicality standing in the way.
But honesty and fairness matter. St. Clair County prosecutors deserve credit here for reminding us that they represent us in the pursuit of justice, not in the pursuit of convictions.