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Monday, August 10, 2020

Gov. Parson Wants Attorney General to Take Over Some St. Louis Murder Cases

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 6:15 PM

click to enlarge Kim Gardner, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Kim Gardner, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney.

Just days after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner won her reelection in a landslide, Mike Parson, Missouri's unelected governor, is asking lawmakers to give the state's Attorney General the power to "take on" homicide cases after 90 days have passed.

"Under this proposal, the Circuit Attorney still has a full and fair opportunity to prosecute murders," Parson said. "The proposal does not allow the Attorney General to supervise or replace the Circuit Attorney."




Text of the proposal was not immediately available, and it is not clear how it would incorporate "concurrent jurisdiction" between Gardner and the state's Attorney General; as RFT columnist Ray Hartmann put it, such a system could be seen as "usurp[ing] the authority of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner on matters of violent crime."

Instead, during a joint press conference Monday afternoon, Parson and Schmitt insisted that the measure was intended only to "supplement" Gardner's office in order to confront the city's dozens of unsolved homicides.

"Crime rates have rapidly increased across our nation and across our state, primarily in our urban areas," Parson said, noting that "only 33 homicide cases have been charged so far this year out of 161." (It's worth pointing out that the police department's stats show Gardner's prosecutors charged all but ten of the cases presented them by police this year.)

"This demonstrates a disturbing trend," Parson added, "of not going after murders, which deprives victims of justice."

Neither Parson nor Schmitt elaborated on their view of the causes behind that disturbing trend. It was a notable contrast to their previous remarks after Gardner chose to bring felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who last month pulled guns on protesters marching past their Central West End mansion.

For the Republican politicians, including President Donald Trump, the incident became a political pile-on for pro-gun conservatives and George Soros conspiracy mongers. In the lead-up to last week's Missouri primary election, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley publicly asked U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate Gardner; meanwhile, Parson took up the McCloskey's cause by vowing to pardon the couple and accused Gardner of "attempting to take their constitutional rights."

During today's news conference, Parson parried when a reporter asked him to whether his proposal to open St. Louis' homicide cases to the Missouri Attorney General had anything to do with the case against the McCloskeys.

Parson acknowledged that he has not spoken with Gardner in "some time" and that she had not requested the state's intervention.

As for Schmitt, he also has a stormy recent history when it comes to Gardner and the McCloskeys. On Thursday, in an op-ed published by Newsweek, Schmitt spent 590 words laying out his case against Gardner, describing her charges against the McCloskeys as a "political prosecution" and blasting her for showing "an utter disregard for the rule  of law.... all while St. Louis crime numbers are skyrocketing, six police officers have been shot since June and too many mothers, fathers and children are being killed."

In the op-ed, Schmitt blasted what he called, "the seismic impact of the St. Louis circuit attorney's failure to protect the citizens of St. Louis."

On Monday, however, Schmitt did not mention the McCloskeys or his views on Gardner's failure to protect St. Louisans.

"Everybody ought to be working together here," Schmitt said.

He added, "There are no politics when it comes to public safety."

Later Monday afternoon, Gardner's office released a statement that cast the governor's actions not as a measure to address the city's crime, but "a vehicle to interfere with the clear discretion of a democratically elected local prosecutor."

The proposal to open homicide cases to the Missouri Attorney General, she added, "allows the Governor and his cronies to make a mockery of judicial checks and balances" and "does nothing to actually address the underlying issues that are driving violent crime."

The statement continued: "Unprosecuted crimes in our community come down to two variables – lack of evidence and lack of community trust with law enforcement. Solving crime will take all of us working together not divisive political maneuvers such as this that are designed to usurp the will of the people."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
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