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Court affirms attorney’s involuntary-manslaughter conviction

Jessica Shumaker//April 7, 2020//

Court affirms attorney’s involuntary-manslaughter conviction

Jessica Shumaker//April 7, 2020//

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A Missouri appeals court has affirmed the conviction of a Clayton attorney convicted in 2018 of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a woman while he was allegedly drag-racing with another driver.

On March 31, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District upheld Scott A. Bailey’s conviction of second-degree involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors alleged that Bailey and another man, Haven Sooter, were racing on Lindbergh Boulevard on July 8, 2016, when they struck another vehicle, killing 73-year-old Kathleen Koutroubis. Bailey’s Mustang and Sooter’s BMW allegedly were going more than 114 mph at the time of crash in the St. Louis suburb of Frontenac.

According to the opinion, written by Judge Lisa P. Page, Bailey argued at trial that he was merely trying to pass Sooter, whom he said was driving erratically. In 2018, Bailey was sentenced to 60 days of shock time and five years of probation after a jury found him guilty.

Bailey raised six points on appeal. In part, he argued that Judge Kristine A. Kerr erred by failing to maintain an appearance of neutrality.

He argued that Kerr improperly injected herself into proceedings by criticizing counsel, making rulings and comments in the presence of the jury and conducting herself in an unprofessional manner towards his attorney.

Page said the majority of Bailey’s allegations against Kerr occurred outside the hearing of the jury. The remaining instances centered on her rulings on objections made by the state and one comment about Bailey’s attorney needing to “speak up” so the jury could hear him.

Bailey compared Kerr’s behavior to the trial court in State v. Houston, a 2004 Missouri Court of Appeals Western District case in which a judge communicated a disbelief in the defense presented by a pro se defendant and told the jury his defense was “immaterial and irrelevant.”

Page said the panel found the comparison “exceedingly disingenuous.” She said Kerr made three comments within hearing of the jury that reiterated the state’s grounds for objection, and Kerr’s comment to speak up would only benefit — not harm — Bailey.

Page also said Bailey did not properly raise and seek a remedy in those instances or in his motion for a new trial.

“Instead, during one side bar conference — out of the hearing of the jury — counsel was incredibly disrespectful in accusing the court of inappropriate conduct, which is not supported by the record,” she said. “At the conclusion of his comments, the court elected not to react in kind, and appropriately inquired as to what questions counsel wished to ask the witness.”

Page concluded the record did not show “significant and consistent” conduct that would prejudice the jury against Bailey or his attorney. Judges Philip M. Hess and Kurt S. Odenwald concurred.

The panel ruled against Bailey on his remaining points on appeal.

Bailey was represented by Travis Noble, who could not be reached for comment.

The case is State v. Bailey, ED107394.

RELATED: Family of grandmother killed in drag-race wreck settles for $1.325M

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