KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In an unprecedented decision, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that the former Kansas City, Missouri, police detective who was convicted of two felonies in the shooting death of Cameron Lamb can remain free on bail pending a planned appeal.
Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs, who presided over DeValkenaere’s bench trial and found him guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action, granted the defense motion for an appeal bond rather than sending him directly to jail after his sentencing next month.
Youngs said the prosecution failed to prove “there is no combination of conditions that I could impose that would guarantee or reduce the risk of the defendant’s failure to comply with court orders or to protect the community.”
He said the Missouri Supreme Court rule applies even after his conviction and sentencing.
Despite the fact that Youngs has never granted such an appeal bond before in 13 years on the bench, he concluded that “the defendant’s incarceration without bond or other conditions that I might impose on him is not necessary to ensure his appearance at future proceedings.”
Youngs said his granting of the appeal bond will be subject to conditions “that I will take up more fully with my consideration of the other issues in this case at sentencing on March 4.”
DeValkenaere’s attorney, Molly Hastings, successfully argued that, while appeal bonds may not be common in Jackson County, they are allowed by the state’s high court for bailable offenses.
According to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 33.01(a), “a defendant charged with a bailable offense shall be entitled to be released from custody pending trial or other stage of the criminal proceedings,” assuming the court believes the defendant will appear in court, comply with court orders, refrain from any new offenses and won’t tamper with witnesses or victims.
The court shall set and impose the least restrictive condition or combination of conditions of release, and the court shall not set or impose any condition or combination of conditions of release greater than necessary to secure the appearance of the defendant at trial, or at any other stage of the criminal proceedings, or the safety of the community or other person, including but not limited to the crime victims and witnesses.
Assistant Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Dion Sankar argued that post-conviction, the burden of the proof had shifted from the state to the defense, thus DeValkenaere needed to demonstrate an appeal is likely to be successful.
But Youngs said the Missouri Supreme Court’s rule doesn’t require that. He also noted that the defense’s concern about DeValkenaere’s safety while incarcerated isn’t a consideration of the rule either.
Hastings argued that “that state is at no disadvantage, the community is in no danger” if DeValkenaere is allowed to remain free on an appeal bond.
“You are avoiding potentially irreversible harm to Eric by allowing him to remain on bond and allowing the appeal process to take its course,” Hastings said.
She added that the defense is amenable to any bond amount and any bond conditions Youngs may impose.
Youngs noted that DeValkenaere has known since his conviction more than three months ago that he would be going to jail.
“He’s known that since November and yet here he is,” Youngs said. “If he was a flight risk, I don’t know that I would have waited if I were Mr. DeValkenaere to fly to Panama. I think I probably would have done it ... after I rendered my verdict in the case.”
DeValkenaere shot and killed Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, as he backed a truck into the garage behind a house where he stayed in the 4100 block of College Avenue.
After a bench trial in November 2019, Youngs ruled that DeValkenaere had violated Lamb’s constitutional rights by entering the property without a warrant and without permission before the deadly encounter.
A Jackson County grand jury indicted DeValkenaere in Lamb’s death in June 2020.
DeValkenaere, who approached Lamb from the right rear, testified during the trial that he saw Lamb raise a gun and point it toward his partner, Troy Schwalm, who was standing in the driveway giving commands.
DeValkenaere was convicted Nov. 19 of second-degree manslaughter and armed criminal action.
He is scheduled to be sentenced March 4, but his attorneys plan to appeal to conviction after sentencing.
“The issues that will be before the appellate court are issues of law and I’m not going to get any deference,” Youngs said. “That’s not to say that I think I was wrong, it’s only that good and reasonable people may disagree and I find that they could.”
RELATED | Day 1: KCPD detective’s partner testifies at trial
RELATED | Day 2: Lamb’s roommate testifies at KCPD detective’s trial
RELATED | Day 3: DeValkenaere testifies, denies planting evidence
RELATED | Day 4: Defense rests in KCPD detective’s trial for shooting Lamb
DeValkenaere faces up to four years in prison on the manslaughter conviction, but Youngs also could decide instead to give him probation. The armed criminal action conviction carries a mandatory three- to 15-year sentence under Missouri law.
His attorneys initially broached the idea of an appeal bond during a Jan. 26 case management conference.
DeValkenaere started working for KCPD in 1999.
His mother, Laurie Bey, has been outspoken about the shooting, saying there was “no reason to use deadly force” against Lamb.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.