Green orders new trial in arson case

Kurt Steidley will get a second trial on the state’s charge that he set a fire that caused heavy damage to his business, Everhart’s Sporting Goods, 2436 Missouri Blvd., on Jan. 1, 2011.

Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green set April 30 as a day for attorneys to schedule the second trial.

A jury on Jan. 14 convicted Steidley, 53, Knob Noster, of second-degree arson, after hearing evidence during the trial that authorities thought Steidley set the fire inside the business he had closed a week before, because it had been

losing money.

But Steidley’s attorney, Shane Farrow, asked Green to order a new trial because the prosecution didn’t disclose before the trial a statement they expected interim Jefferson City Fire Chief Jason Turner to make — and did make — during the trial.

Turner testified that, during a conversation the day after the fire, Steidley said he fell and hurt his head as he was getting ready to come to Jefferson City after hearing about the fire — so he went to the hospital instead.

But, Farrow reminded Green during a hearing last month, Steidley’s defense about the fall was that he fell from a grain bin earlier in the day — and at first thought he didn’t need to go to the emergency room until later.

Farrow argued in his five-page new trial motion, filed Feb. 6, that the prosecution violated the legal discovery process, by failing to provide advance notice of Turner’s testimony.

In his written motion, Farrow said that knowing about Turner’s version of the conversation with Steidley would have resulted in Farrow’s taking Turner’s deposition before the trial, “to determine what precisely Chief Turner recalled about the making of the statement, the context and why Chief Turner waited two and a half years to disclose it to the state.”

Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson had asked Green to reject Farrow’s motion and impose Steidley’s sentence, because: “The substance of that statement was disclosed by written letter to the defense attorney prior to the trial. There was no discovery violation by the state.”

When Turner testified during the trial, Farrow objected and Green struck the statement from the record and instructed the jury that the statement wasn’t part of the case.

But, when Richardson was questioning Steidley later in the trial, he asked Steidley about that conversation with Turner.

Farrow objected again, but Green allowed the testimony the second time.

In granting Farrow’s motion for a new trial, Green wrote the court erred on the second occasion, resulting in prejudice to the defendant.

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