JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri lawmakers are expected to continue their conversation about Senate Bill 1, also known as Governor Mike Parson’s anti-crime package. The bill has all six provisions Parson wanted, which he says will reduce crime in the state.
The Missouri Senate passed the bill Friday morning by a 27-3 margin. The three “no” votes were three Democratic senators from the St. Louis area.
Now it’s the Missouri House’s turn to take up the bill.
“It’s about violent crime and that is a topic that has been manipulated in ways over the past that it really does rub salt into the wounds in a time when there are protests going on,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, director of policy for Empower Missouri.
Dozens testified Monday for and against the bill. Two of the major sticking points of the discussion – residency requirements for St. Louis City police officers and trying a 14-year-old as an adult for certain crimes.
“The City of St. Louis is about 62 square miles, which does not give us a lot of acreage to look at. It reduces the population,” said Judge Jimmie Edwards, director of public safety for St. Louis.
The House is expected to debate SB1 later this week.
Governor Parson Expands Call to Special Session on Violent Crime
Proposes New Provision to Assist with the Growing Backlog of Murder Cases in St. Louis
(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Today, Governor Mike Parson expanded his call to special session on violent crime to include a new provision to assist with the growing backlog of murder cases in St. Louis.
The proposed legislation supplements the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office by allowing the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to take on some of the murder cases that have not yet been prosecuted.
“Homicide rates continue to escalate in Missouri, especially in our urban areas. Innocent lives are being lost, futures are cut short, and families are hurting. This is unacceptable, and we must hold violent criminals accountable,” Governor Parson said. “This proposal is not about taking away authority. It is about fighting violent crime, achieving justice for victims, and making our communities safer.”
“Our mothers, fathers, and children are being killed at a record rate, and many people don’t feel safe in their own communities. Something needs to be done now, and the Attorney General’s Office is ready, willing, and able to step up and help prosecute these most violent crimes in the city of St. Louis,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said. “Through our Safer Streets Initiative, our lawyers are already prosecuting violent crimes in the city at the federal level. We’re here to help, and if given the opportunity, we will work to obtain justice on behalf of victims and prosecute the city’s most violent offenders to create safer communities for all.”
Missouri has seen rapid increases in violent crime rates this year, primarily in the state’s urban areas. Part of Missouri has already experienced more homicides in 2020 than all of 2019, putting the state on track to have its deadliest year on record. As of August 9, there have been 161 murders in St. Louis so far this year.
Despite increasing murders in the City, fewer charges have been filed over the past three years, creating a significant backlog of cases. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reports that only 33 homicide cases have been charged so far this year. In 2019, 40 cases were charged out of 194 total murders, and 61 cases were charged out of 186 murders in 2018.
To assist with the backlog and further address the overall issue of violent crime in Missouri, the proposed legislation authorizes the Attorney General to prosecute the offense of murder in the first or second degree, as well as any other offense that was part of the same course of conduct, in the City of St. Louis.
Under the proposal, the Circuit Attorney still has full and fair opportunity to prosecute murders. The proposal does not allow the Attorney General to supervise or replace the Circuit Attorney. The Attorney General will be able to prosecute cases only if 90 or more days have passed, the chief law enforcement officer makes the request of the Attorney General, and the Circuit Attorney has not yet filed charges.
Statement from Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner:
“I agree with Governor Parson that fighting violent crime, achieving justice for victims, and making our communities safer is a priority. However, it is clear that this legislation is not actually about addressing crime, instead it serves as a vehicle to interfere with the clear discretion of a democratically elected local prosecutor. This allows the Governor and his cronies to make a mockery of judicial checks and balances and demolishes any notion of a free and independent judicial system.
Furthermore, this bill does nothing to actually address the underlying issues that are driving violent crime. In fact, my office has an overall felony conviction rate of 97 percent. Unprosecuted crimes in our community come down to two variables – lack of evidence and lack of community trust with law enforcement. Solving crime will take all of us working together not divisive political maneuvers such as this that are designed to usurp the will of the people.”
Attorney General Schmitt Statement in Support of Governor Parson’s Expanded Call
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Following Governor Mike Parson’s call to expand the special session on violent crime with a provision that would allow the Attorney General’s Office to take on certain homicide cases in the City of St. Louis that have not been charged, Attorney General Schmitt released the following statement:
“Our mothers, fathers, and children are being killed at a record rate, and many people don’t feel safe in their own communities. Something needs to be done now, and the Attorney General’s Office is ready, willing, and able to step up and help prosecute these most violent crimes in the city of St. Louis. We need all hands on deck. Through our Safer Streets Initiative, our lawyers are already prosecuting violent crimes in the city at the federal level. We’re here to help, and if given the opportunity, we will work to obtain justice on behalf of victims and prosecute the city’s most violent offenders to create safer communities for all.”
Under the proposal, the Attorney General will be able to prosecute cases if 90 or more days have passed, the chief law enforcement officer makes the request of the Attorney General, and the Circuit Attorney has not yet filed charges.
Statement from House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield:
“St. Louis voters overwhelmingly re-elected St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner just last week. By now trying to strip her of the prosecutorial discretion and authority enjoyed by every other prosecutor in the state, the governor attacks democracy itself. Lawmakers must not become co-conspirators in the governor’s politically motivated abuse of power.”