ST. LOUIS – A judge did not hold Kim Gardner in contempt of court in a hearing Monday, but said he fears her office’s misstep is just the beginning of issues we’ll see. The victim’s family shared concerns about future justice.
The Scott family’s concerns might best be summed up by Judge Scott Millikan’s frustrations.
“I’m just trying to bring some semblance of order to this circuit (court),” he said.
The family of the victim, Brandon Scott, walked out of court stunned.
“Everything was just everywhere. I think even the judge was just confused about everything,” April Scott, the victim’s sister, said.
April said she doesn’t want people to forget who her brother was.
“Brandon was a loving family man with two beautiful children,” she said.
Brandon Scott died in September 2021. His was found shot to death inside his car, which had crashed onto the steps of the Arch grounds.
“He was on his home. He was trying to get on the highway, and he accidentally made a wrong turn,” April said.
She said he was the victim of road rage.
Trial for one of the defendants, Jonathon Jones, was scheduled for April 17. Prosecutors failed to show.
Assistant prosecutor Alex Polta had been assigned to the case. He told the judge he provided a medical note to the circuit attorney on April 9, showing that he needed extended medical leave.
“I told Kim the office is responsible to find someone to cover me,” he said.
Polta told the judge he’s already overwhelmed with a large docket.
“We’ve been dealing with this for two years,” April said. “Nothing has been done.”
Ultimately, Judge Milliken did not hold Gardner nor Polta in contempt of court, saying it’s a very high bar to clear, and that it is not met by evidence suggesting an office in chaos, rather than one intentionally missing trials.
Milliken said there is no excuse for the Gardner’s office to miss a court date, adding, “There is no more serious case than (first-degree murder).”
The judge also questioned aloud whether Gardner uses an internal case management system, like Karpel, that would help avoid mistakes like this. Polta confirmed they do have that system.
The Scott family fears justice may be out of reach.
“It’s very disturbing, taking the fact that it’s dealing with the safety of the community, for everyone else, as well as our family,” April said.
Judge Millikan set trial for June 5, saying he will not dismiss the case for a speedy trial violation, because he said he believes the circuit attorney would simply refile the charge, like he the office has done in the past. He said he was concerned that would delay justice even more.
Gardner did not appear herself. Her outside counsel, Michael Downey, appeared on her behalf.