Defendant's decision to appeal still not made in Hobson trial

Six of the eight co-defendants pled guilty, making it difficult for them to appeal.

Daron M. Peal, the shooter in the 2010 murder of Aaron Hobson, has not yet heard a verdict on his appeal after a closed-door case Friday.

Judge Gary M. Oxenhandler listened to 24-year-old Peal's appeal in the Boone County Courthouse. The case was filed on the Missouri court's website as a Missouri Case Rule 29.15, or post-conviction motion for conviction after trial, and 24.035, or post-conviction motion for conviction after guilty plea.

“Leo Roland’s case was likewise set on Friday, but that, too, was continued,” defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky said. “I believe they continued it to allow more time to depose a witness and to locate and subpoena other witnesses.”

On Oct. 23, 2010, Hobson, 22, was shot and killed in a Break Time parking lot on Nifong Boulevard. Eight suspects were charged with murder and robbery: Anthony Carr, Lee Carter, Deshon Houston, Tony Lewis, Patrick Rashad Marshall, Darron Peal, Darris Peal and Leo D. Roland. Darron Peal is currently sentenced to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder and 20 years for armed criminal action.

Under Missouri law, a death resulting from the commission of a felony is murder. All eight men were charged on the notion that the crime was a robbery. On the Break Time security footage, Lewis and the others who were charged can be seen moving outside the scuffle but not participating in any way.

Hobson was not robbed, according to several testimonies from both parties. Instead, several said he was flashing money and drawing attention to his vehicle.

Several months after the murder occurred, an employee of Providence Urgent Care, located near Break Time, found a handgun buried in a mulch pile while cleaning the office’s parking lot. When Columbia Police Department Officer Wendy Stokes investigated, the employee told her she thought the .22-caliber pistol could be linked to the murder.

During the trial, Stokes acknowledged this and reported it to her supervisor. Oxenhandler had earlier ruled this information should have been disclosed to the defense team of all eight suspects.

In February 2012, after a six-day trial, Tony Lewis was found not guilty. This was the first time a suspect was found not guilty in a Boone County murder case in 47 years.

“The last thing the jury asked to see before they found Tony Lewis not guilty was a picture of Aaron Hobson holding a stack of money in the club and the money found in his glove box,” Citizens for Justice founder Matt Akins. “There were neutral witnesses on both sides saying it wasn’t a robbery. Darris’ story from the beginning was that they tried to hit him with their car, and he was pissed off and just wanted to fight them.”

Six of the eight co-defendants pled guilty, making it difficult for them to appeal, but the discovery of the gun could help overturn their guilty pleas.

“While it’s highly unusual for a person to have a legitimate appeal after they’ve pled guilty to a crime, I think the fact that such a crucial piece of evidence was withheld from all the defense attorneys in this case raises legitimate concerns about the circumstances under which the suspects plead guilty,” Akins said. “The prosecution’s theory was just a theory - it wasn’t supported by all the witnesses or evidence in this case. But the pressure being applied to all the suspects to plead guilty or face lengthy prison sentences was substantial.”

Darris Peal, whose case was taken to trial, will appeal the decision in the near future, according to Citizens for Justice.

“Tony Lewis was found not guilty based on a defense that centered around allegations of police misconduct and incompetency,” Akins said. “It was almost like the investigators in this case had selective hearing when it came to the evidence presented to them.”

Daron Peal’s appeal will be heard at 5 p.m Dec. 3 at the Boone County Courthouse.

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