St. Louis circuit attorney faces backlash as more felony cases dropped
Critics say Kim Gardner’s office letting too many criminals walk free; Mike Tobin reports
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was already under fire after three murder cases fell apart on her watch and records show that the turnover of prosecutors in her office is greater than 100%.
Now, records show her office has been dropping felony cases at a rate more than double the years before she took office.
Records from the clerk of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in Missouri show before Gardner took office, the percentage of cases listed as Nolle Prosequi – or no prosecution – averaged 13.5% starting with 2008. The lowest was in 2013, when only 9.8% of the cases were dropped. The highest was 15.5% in 2015.
Gardner took over as Circuit Attorney in January of 2017. The jump in no prosecution is first seen in 2018: 22.6%. The following year it hit 31.5%. Last year, 35.8% of the cases had been dropped and by July of this year, 34.4% of felony the cases charged in St. Louis were dismissed.
FILE – In a Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks in St. Louis.
(AP Photo/Jim Salter, File)
That more-than-doubled the average rate of Nolle Prosequi cases up from 13.56% to 27.84%.
Jane Dueker, who represents the St. Louis Association of Police, noted those are just the cases for which there have been charges or indictments.
“Not only is she declining to prosecute a record number of cases that have already been filed, she is just filing less cases, so that’s a double whammy,” Dueker said.
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Fox News reached out to Gardner’s office. A public relations representative responded to the call, but Gardner’s office offered no comment.
In 2008, Missouri’s 22nd Circuit handled 4,726 criminal cases. After one year with Gardner in office, the caseload was down to 3,053, then in 2019 only 1,974 felony criminal cases moved through St. Louis. In 2020, there were even fewer: 861. But, that can be written off as an anomaly due to the pandemic.
Scene of a shooting at West County Mall near St. Louis, Missouri on July 3, 2021. (KMOV via NNS)
Dueker said that’s one more item to break the spirit of police officers who bring the cases to court.
“They’re understaffed, underpaid,” she said. “So when they have the ability to bring a case to the prosecutor’s office, to not have it prosecuted is demoralizing, because they know that nine times out of 10 they’re gonna run into this person again.”
Alderman Joe Vaccaro is the chairman of Public Safety in Saint Louis City Hall. He said the dismissal of cases is also going to have a chilling effect on witnesses who help cops and prosecutors.
“It sends a message: ‘be afraid. The law is not going to be able to support you,’” Vaccaro said. “The criminals are going to be able to walk.”
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