Kim Gardner, the troubled St. Louis Circuit Attorney, announced on Tuesday that she is resigning immediately after earlier this month stating that it would go into effect on June 1. Numerous people have criticized her during her tumultuous term in office, especially Missouri’s Republican leaders.
In Missouri’s second-largest city, the sudden announcement raised questions about who is in charge of the prosecutor’s office.
A statement from Gardner’s office claims that she has been working with Wesley Bell, the St. Louis County prosecutor, to organize the switchover so that his office can take over city cases “to prioritize public safety.”
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office will run the Circuit Attorney’s Office beginning on Wednesday, according to Republican Governor Mike Parson, who will appoint a replacement. Parson told reporters that he will announce his choice by Friday.
Black clergy leaders who Parson met with earlier on Tuesday urged him to appoint a Black person to the position. The governor was ambiguous.
“It’s about who I think will go in there and do the best job for the city of St. Louis,” he declared.
Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced that Bill Corrigan, the deputy attorney general, and other lawyers would be sent to St. Louis, “to immediately receive referrals from police and start the process of clearing the backlog of cases until the Governor appoints the newest Circuit Attorney.”
When Gardner, a Democrat, declared she would step down on May 4, effective June 1, she was already under fire from Republican-led state lawmakers. She was facing an attempt to have her removed by Missouri’s attorney general. However, Gardner gave notice of her resignation on Tuesday.
The statement read, “Ms. Gardner has been committed to serving the people of the City of St. Louis and has done all she can to ensure a smooth transition.”
— Circuit Attorney (@stlcao) May 16, 2023
The first Black circuit attorney in the city, Gardner was elected in 2016. She was a member of a group of progressive prosecutors who actively sought the release of prisoners who had been wrongfully convicted and diversion to drug or mental health treatment for low-level crimes. They also promised to hold police officers more accountable.
Her departure this year marked the culmination of a string of events.
Bailey sued Gardner in February, requesting his dismissal for three reasons: failing to prosecute ongoing cases, failing to press charges in claims brought by the police, and failing to consult with and update the victims’ families on the status of their patients.
Gardner claimed that Bailey attacked her for racial and political reasons.
At the same time, a bill that would allow the governor to designate a special prosecutor in St. Louis to handle violent crimes was being debated in the Missouri House, eliminating most of Gardner’s duties. When Gardner resigned, the bill was put on hold.
A crucial turning point occurred in February when Tennessee volleyball star Janae Edmondson, 17, was hit by a speeding car after a match in downtown St. Louis. Her legs were gone.
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Although he had committed nearly 100 bond violations, including letting his GPS monitor die and flouting the terms of his house arrest, the driver, 21-year-old Daniel Riley, was free on bond for a robbery charge.
Riley had a history of bond violations, so critics questioned why Riley was still free. Tishaura Jones, the Democratic mayor of St. Louis, asked for Gardner’s retention in office.
Republicans first objected to Gardner when she charged then-Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy in 2018. However, the charge was later dropped, and Greitens resigned.
Examination of the Greitens case resulted in Gardner’s investigator’s conviction. Gardner was reprimanded in writing for failing to turn over documents and falsely asserting that all documents had been given to Greitens’ attorneys.
You can also see the tweet from NewsNation provided below:
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner abruptly quit just over two weeks earlier than her planned June 1 departure, leaving the position vacant and cases in limbo. What happens next? @LelandVittert speaks with @AGAndrewBailey.
— NewsNation (@NewsNation) May 16, 2023
An “exclusion list” of city police officers barred from bringing cases to Gardner’s office was made public in 2019. The nearly 60 officers were charged with making offensive comments on social media about Muslims and people of color.
Gardner achieved her successes despite her struggles.
She persuaded a judge to overturn Lamar Johnson’s murder conviction in February, freeing him from nearly three decades in prison.
The testimony of an eyewitness, who later claimed he had been forced into making his statements, was a significant factor in Johnson’s conviction.
On Friday, Gardner filed a motion asking for a hearing to have Christopher Dunn’s 33-year prison sentence overturned for a murder that Gardner thinks Dunn didn’t commit.
Presently unknown is Bell’s involvement in St. Louis case management. Bell and the prosecutors in five neighboring counties have each pledged to help reduce the backlog in the city.
Bell, 48, served as a city councilman in Ferguson, Missouri, where the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in 2014 sparked months of unrest. Bell won the Democratic general election in 2018 after defeating veteran prosecutor Bob McCulloch in the party’s primary. In 2022, he won reelection.
Like Gardner, Bell has made progressive decisions like ceasing to prosecute low-level drug offenses and creating a separate unit to look into potential wrongful convictions and claims of police misconduct.
“The city of St. Louis’ safety is critical to the safety of St. Louis County,” according to Bell’s spokesman Chris King.
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For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.