Representative Cases

DAVID BARNETT, Petitioner, vs. DON ROPER, Respondent. Case No. 4:03CV00614 ERW UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI, EASTERN DIVISION

A St. Louis man was tried for murder along with two other defendants, one of who accepted a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against our client. Our client was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Because of his extensive knowledge in capital cases, Richard Sindel was appointed by the court to represent him in his appeals. Sindel filed a habeas corpus petition in the United States District Court and the Court granted the petition, ordering that the state grant our client a new trial. The state appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that the prosecuting attorney for all of St. Louis County was guilty of misconduct and reversed the sentence of death. This was the first death penalty case ever to be reversed in Missouri.

A St. Louis woman was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole. The jury came within one vote of sentencing her to death. She spent 18 years in prison, all the while maintaining her innocence. Richard Sindel, along with Cheryl Pilate and Charlie Rogers, was retained to represent her in her second habeas corpus proceeding the federal court. An examination of the boxes of materials maintained in the prosecuting attorney's office revealed several pieces of crucial evidence that the attorneys contended had been intentionally withheld during the original trial. In addition, evidence was developed showing that the prosecutor had made deals with several witnesses to testify against the defendant, deals that were hidden from the attorneys and from the jury. It was Sindel's job to cross-examine the officers from the Major Case Squad, the prosecutor, who at the time of the hearing was a sitting Circuit judge, and other crucial witnesses. The District Court judge later described the work of Mr. Sindel as a "seminar" in how to conduct an effective cross-examination of hostile witnesses. The guilty verdict was overturned and the defendant was cleared of all charges. The day after she was released from prison, she and her attorneys were flown to New York City, where they appeared on the Today Show, CNBC and CNN. The defendant ended up settling her civil case with the police departments and agencies that were instrumental in her wrongful conviction for over $7,000,000.

A St. Louis man was initially convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. After he served 10 years in prison his guilty verdict was reversed in the 8th Circuit Court because the prosecutor had intentionally removed black venire members from the jury pool. Richard Sindel continued in his representation and after a two-week second trial, filled with state experts from all over the country in such fields as shoe print and tool mark identification, glass identification, fingerprint analysis and forensic autopsies, the jury found the defendant not guilty and he was released from prison.

Sindel's client, a St. Louis man, was the first person charged and tried in Missouri under the newly enacted death penalty statutes. It was the first such case in over 20 years and very few lawyers had any experience in the recently conceived method for directing the jury's determination concerning who would die and who would not. Richard Sindel was asked to represent the defendant even though he was a relatively recent graduate of law school. At his trial, which was moved to Kansas City because of the extensive publicity, the jury returned a verdict guilty and sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment. Sindel was able to get the verdict overturned due to improper jury selection practices. The State then announced it would seek to execute the defendant even though the first jury had rejected the State's case for death. Sindel filed pretrial pleadings seeking to stop the State from requesting a sentence of death at the second trial. The case went before the Missouri Supreme Court and when that Court agreed that the State could proceed, Sindel appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court.

Much to the surprise of many attorneys who were familiar with Sindel's extensive efforts to save his client from the agony and anxiety of a second capital trial, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case. After an intensive briefing period the case was argued before that Court. Four months later, in a 5-4 decision, Justice Blackmun and four other members of the Court agreed with Sindel and overruled over 60 years of legal precedent and prohibited all states from seeking to execute defendants who had escaped a death sentence in their first trial. American Lawyer Magazine featured Sindel in its publication and voted his argument before the Court one of the 10 best. The law in the United States had been changed in a significant way and has since preserved life-sentenced defendants their freedom to appeal improper convictions without concern that a retrial could result in their death.

A St. Louis man hit a police car and was arrested for DWI with a BAC of .14. Travis Noble argued that the blood sample had been taken without consent because the defendant was unconscious at the accident scene. The client retained his license and the felony DWI charges were dismissed.

A Cape Girardeau man was arrested on his 12th DWI offense and a Breathalyzer showed his BAC to be .234, nearly triple the legal limit. Travis Noble argued successfully that the police had not followed proper procedure and had failed to conduct a field sobriety test. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence.