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Fight to Control Circuit Attorney’s Office is Not Over

Published by St. Louis American, May 19, 2023

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Kim Gardner’s announcement of her resignation was a communal gut punch to supporters. She then left the office on May 16, 2023, not on June 1 as she first announced.

The twice democratically elected circuit attorney had made a brief appearance just days before the announcement at her office’s roundtable on youth. She vowed never to quit and to keep moving forward on behalf of her constituency. Gardner received a rousing ovation from the audience for her recommitment in the face of ongoing brutal attacks. In the end, the Republican strategy was successful.

 

Bailey has consistently fought against allowing wrongfully convicted persons to have their day in court. What happens to the ones Gardner was about to seek freedom for, like Frederico Lowe-Bey and Christopher Dunn?

As the first Black, female prosecutor in St. Louis history, Gardner came into office in 2017 with a community-inspired, justice-centered reform agenda. She immediately became a target of the right-wing which spent countless hours weaponizing whatever she said and did to use against her. Millions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent challenging her law license. The relentless pursuit was focused and intentionally destructive. The character assassination efforts were public and ruthless. Clarence Thomas, this is an example of a high-tech lynching!

The attacks didn’t stop with the announcement of Gardner’s resignation. A now-emboldened unelected, state Attorney General Kevin Bailey declared the June 1 effective resignation date as not soon enough.

Local defense attorney Terry Niehoff had the audacity to say it will take years to clean up the “mess” left by Gardner. There has never been acknowledgment of the years of mess that she inherited.

The televised hearing for wrongfully convicted Lamar Johnson and a recent CBS “48 Hours” special on his case exposed years of corruption in the circuit attorney’s office. It has been a well-documented, but hidden, dysfunctional office since the days of prosecutor George Peach.

There are two realities the city now faces. How it deals with them will determine if St. Louis continues its antebellum style of governance.

The first reality is the blatant disenfranchisement of voters, a truth that has outraged many voters, even those who weren’t ardent supporters of Gardner. What has also offended voters is the silence of city-wide elected Democrats regarding the unseating of a peer by another party.

Once you allow such an act to happen to one, all Dems are at risk, especially those with a progressive agenda. As Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, ‘silence is complicity.’

The second is, “Who will be appointed prosecutor and what community input will be solicited to ensure the person’s credentials and motives are in line with voters?

How will the new staff be attracted to an office with thousands of cases in the backlog to be expedited? They’ll be under the scrutiny of legal watchdogs, not to mention under the lash of the state attorney general.

Bailey has consistently fought against allowing wrongfully convicted persons to have their day in court. What happens to the ones Gardner was about to seek freedom for, like Fredrico Lowe-Bey and Christopher Dunn?

How is the office going to atone for hundreds of wrongfully convicted and overly sentenced convictions based upon the corrosive collaboration between police and prosecutors?

St. Louis is a relic because of its lack of vision and slows forward implementation of progress for all citizens. Now, it’s becoming a police state on top of being backward politically, socially, and culturally.

There are many residents who will fight for justice and democracy. We admit our painful loss in this round, but there are still rounds left in this bout. We are training, building more muscle for endurance, and developing a new strategy. The People must always be the victors, not a minority that usurps and abuses power with the aid of minions.

 

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