KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson expanded his call for a special session on violent crime to include giving the attorney general authority to prosecute cases that are part of St. Louis’ backlog.
Of the 161 recorded homicides this year under the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Parson said only 33 people have been charged. In 2019, 40 of 194 were charged and in 2018, 61 of 186 were charged.
“This demonstrates a disturbing trend of not going after murderers, which deprives victims of justice,” Parson said during a press briefing on Monday.
The governor, who said he would pardon the St. Louis couple that pointed guns at protesters earlier this year after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced charges against them, said his proposed legislation is “not about taking away authority.”
“It is about fighting violent crime, achieving justice for victims and making our communities safer,” Parson said.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office will be allowed to prosecute cases in which 90 or more days have passed since a filing, Parson said.
“At the end of the day, it should not matter who prosecutes a homicide case. The law and the facts are the same regardless of what attorneys represent the state as prosecutors,” Parson said. “The local community still has a voice in these cases under this proposal.”
Schmitt said St. Louis is in an “all hands on deck moment” in regard to its homicide rates.
“Violent crime and homicides have reached epidemic levels in St. Louis,” Schmitt said. “There’s no way around it. You have the human toll here alone, with mothers and fathers and children being killed. They deserve justice. And that’s what this is about. This is about advocating on behalf of victims, adding capacity to those prosecutions.”
Gardner, who was reelected as circuit attorney in the August primary, still has the opportunity to “prosecute murderers,” according to Parson, and Schmitt will not supervise or replace Gardner.
The press conference came after a violent weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, in which four homicides occurred on Sunday alone.