The bill would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor for a period of up to five years where the homicide rate in a prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction exceeds 35 cases for every 100,000 people. Bill sponsor, state Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, said everyone’s making this about St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
“Not just willing to make it about the circuit attorney as an individual,” he told Missourinet. “I think there’s almost been a deliberate effort to make it that and it’s not, regardless of who the circuit attorney was, gender, race, any other. Quality aside, the real question is the people who are committing violent crime in St. Louis are not being prosecuted and held accountable.”
Roberts’ concern is about correcting that problem, regardless of who is the circuit attorney in St. Louis. He’s a former Joplin police chief and Missouri Department of Public Safety director.
“If that person is not performing and if we’re not holding criminals accountable, it creates that sort of environment where people who are law abiding are literally feeling insecure in their own homes,” he explained. “It’s affecting the entire state and that’s really how I got involved.”
The bill also would impose mandatory minimum sentences for all classes of felonies for offenders with prior felony convictions, with exceptions for drug and alcohol offenses.
Roberts said that Missouri’s crime data is disproportionately driven by St. Louis.
“That affects our reputation nationally, internationally, economically, academically. People are reluctant to bring their businesses here, to send their children to our learning institutions. It’s difficult, and in this is truly, even on the international level, people recognize Missouri as a violent place and in particular, St. Louis.”
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who has called Gardner’s competence into question, is trying to get Gardner removed from office by way of the court system.
Roberts’ bill could reach the Senate floor soon.
Click here for more information on House Bill 301.