STL Circuit Attorney visits state capitol to plead for improved witness protections

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said her number one job as the city's top prosecutor is to protect victims and witnesses of crime. On Tuesday, she traveled to the state capitol to convince lawmakers to improve protections for those same victims and witnesses.

According to Gardner, a decades-old Missouri Supreme Court ruling is hurting her office.

“Under the rule, we have to turn over those identifiers to defense attorneys and, in turn, they turn it over to their client; that is a problem,” she said.

These are identifiers such as date of birth and last known address. Gardner said because of witness intimidation, over 30 percent of criminal cases don't make trial because people are afraid to testify.

“This rule was made in 1979, before the internet and social media,” Gardner said. “It has made it easier to get to individuals. At the time, it was not an issue.”

After being sworn in three months ago, Gardner said she would always do the right thing for the city. She doesn’t see this as a political issue, but rather a safety issue.

“We have to protect the information, because those things are used sometimes to intimidate victims and we have to make sure they are safe,” she said.

Gardner doesn't think a change will happen this legislative session, but she is optimistic overall.

“I believe it’s a top priority for this legislation body and governor. And (the) governor can identify because his wife was a victim of crime,” Gardner said.

The circuit attorney said she’ll keep talking to the legislature and Governor Greitens to get new legislation on his desk and for him to sign it as soon as possible.