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Missouri AG sides with DeValkenaere, asks for reversal of former KCPD officer’s conviction

Brief comes amid appeal fight over conviction in Cameron Lamb’s shooting death
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eric devalkenaere
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jun 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-27 09:37:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a highly unusual move, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey sided with convicted former Kansas City, Missouri, Police Det. Eric DeValkenaere in the state’s long-delayed response to an appeal filed eight months ago.

Bailey argues that he believes “the evidence credited by the trial court does not, as a matter of law, support the trial court’s findings of guilt, the Court should reverse DeValkenaere’s convictions and order him discharged or order a new trial.”

Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs found DeValkenaere guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action during a four-day bench trial in November 2021.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker, whose office secured the conviction, said it was another case of overreach by Bailey’s office and an attempt “to expand his power to that of judge” in a move unprecedented in her 25-year legal career.

Trial attorney Tim Dollar, who assisted with the prosecution, said it was the first instance he could recall in 40 years of an attorney general attempting to overturn such a conviction.

“Keep in mind, the Missouri Attorney General is the highest law enforcement officer in the state,” Baker said at a press conference Monday after the brief was filed. “This is extremely distressing, unfortunate and disappointing.”

Bailey’s brief opines that the state has an interest in ensuring that “wrongdoers are correctly identified” and argues that police "are clothed with authority and privileges” that “raise important questions” about DeValkenaere’s conviction.

“The death of Cameron Lamb was tragic; it did not need to happen,” Bailey writes, but he goes on to argue that DeValkenaere had a reasonable suspicion to flout the Missouri Constitution, questions whether illegal entry onto the property should even matter and substitutes his judgment for the trial court judge’s about whether the KCPD officers were the “initial aggressors” in the case.

Bailey’s office had not spoken with Lamb’s family — including his mother, Laurie Bey, and her husband, Aquil Bey — until Monday afternoon when a representative called to say it would seek to have DeValkenaere’s conviction overturned.

“The things that they said made me think it’s a miscarriage of justice,” Lamb’s father, Aquil Bey, said during a Monday evening press conference.

Dollar said it will be months before a decision is made in the case, but it now has competing briefs — including the amicus brief Baker’s office submitted in mid-June — to consider.

“We’re not giving up, because we believe in the rule of law and we believe the rule of law applies to all of us,” Baker said.

Baker’s friend-of-the-court brief rehashed the evidence presented at trial, while Bailey’s brief asserted that DeValkenaere’s use of force was “reasonable” and he did not act with “criminal negligence.”

Bailey’s office had until Monday to file a response to the appeal DeValkenaere’s legal team filed in October 2022.

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has requested six motions for an extension in the case.

A judge warned after the fifth request that no further extensions would be granted, but Bailey’s office requested a sixth in late May anyway.

Missouri Court of Appeals Western District Chief Judge Gary Witt warned June 2 in acquiescing to the sixth extension that “absolutely no further extensions will be granted” and set a deadline of June 26 for Bailey’s office to respond.

A few days after sending a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, urging him not to pardon DeValkenaere, a request echoed by members of Kansas City’s faith community, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker’s office filed an amicus brief in the case.

But on Monday, Kelli Jones, communications director for Parson, said Bailey's brief would not influence's his decision when considering clemency for DeValkenaere.

"Attorney General Bailey’s opinion in the DeValkenaere case does not impact Governor Parson’s decision-making process when considering clemency," Jones said in a statement. "The AG’s action is merely due process taking its course, and we trust the Western District Court of Appeals to perform a careful assessment of the case. If and when Governor Parson considers clemency, his thoughtful and thorough review will be based on the facts and circumstances of the individual case and independent of the actions taken by anyone else."

Baker’s office secured the conviction of DeValkenaere, the first for a KCPD officer accused of killing a Black man.

But under state law, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office handles the appeals case.

DeValkenaere’s appellate attorney, Jonathan Laurans, filed a motion hoping to bar Baker’s office from filing its amicus, or friend-of-the-court brief, but Witt allowed the filing.

DeValkenaere shot and killed Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, after following his partner, Troy Schwalm, on a property in the 4100 block of College Avenue without a warrant, without permission and without exigent circumstances to enter the property.

After ignoring a resident on the front porch and knocking over a makeshift fence to reach the backyard, DeValkenaere claimed to see Lamb point a gun at Schwalm — a claim that was disputed at trial.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted DeValkenaere in June 2020 in connection with Lamb’s homicide.

Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs found DeValkenaere guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action during a four-day bench trial in November 2021.

Youngs later allowed DeValkenaere to remain free on bond pending appeal before handing down a six-year sentence. Prosecutors had requested a nine-year sentence.

Attorneys for DeValkenaere filed a notice of intent to appeal within days.

Lamb’s 30th birthday would have been earlier this month. His family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against DeValkenaere and the KCPD Board of Police Commissioners.

Lamb was the father of three children.