Outgoing Circuit Attorney reflects on 22 years in prosecutor’s office

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Jennifer Joyce will retire next week as the longest serving St. Louis City Circuit Attorney in Missouri history.

She joined the prosecutor’s office in 1994 as a line prosecutor, was elected top prosecutor in 2000, and has overseen 220,000 cases. She says her biggest case was the “Southside Rapist” case.

Joyce was challenged with three cases right off the bat. She dealt with the investigation of the St. Louis Archdiocese with sexual abuse matters involving priests. That case ended with charges.

She also went back and tackled cold cases when DNA evidence first became available, successfully overturning guilty verdicts of wrongly convicted individuals and had those people released.

As a lifelong St. Louisan and daughter of two aldermen, there is one case that haunts her, and not one ever in the headlines. That’s because she tried to treat every life the same.

This was a case of a man abusing his girlfriend’s eight kids. Joyce said he did so in every way possible. The kids were so emotionally hurt they couldn’t testify.

“I was forced to plea bargain the case for a lesser charge,” she said. “He was pure evil! I think about the case a lot.”

While Joyce didn’t have anything to do with decisions made in the Michael Brown case, it changed the way her office approached things. They started several community programs to educate people on the legal system and build confidence in the criminal justice system. She did bring charges against Officer Jason Stockley this past year for allegedly shooting and killing Anthony Lamar Smith.

Joyce said she has an idea on how to handle these cases.

“I want a special investigator—separate from the police department—who can work with prosecutors on officer involved shooting cases,” she said.

Joyce, a SLU Law grad, aw early on that new ideas would be needed to change our city. She was the first circuit attorney in the country to use Twitter to communicate with residents and provide a platform for them to ask questions.

“It was controversial at the time, but now every office in our country uses social media,” she said.

Joyce said she loves St. Louis, but admits it’s a violent city. She has noticed one major change in her 22 years in the prosecutor’s office.

“In 1994, when I started as a prosecutor, most of our cases were drug possession cases,” she said. “Now, 22 years later, most of our cases are homicides and violent crime. It makes me sad.”

“I think if all of us reached out a young kid and tried to influence them in a positive way or city would be a much better place.”

Joyce said she was reluctant to leave, even as she gets ready to now travel the country in an RV with her husband.

“I’m really proud of the work our office has done. We have taken it to a new level. Now, many offices around the country emulate what we do.”