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Ralph Yarl's lawyers, family express concern in Clay County Prosecuting Attorney's ability to handle case

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-01 19:25:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ralph Yarl's attorneys are expressing doubt in Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson's ability to handle Andrew Lester's case.

During a press conference on Thursday, attorneys Lee Merritt and Benjamin Crump discussed how confident they are that Ralph Yarl's family will get justice.

Lester shot Yarl twice in April after the 17-year-old teen mistakenly went to Lester's home to pick up his siblings.

Merritt and Crump believe it should be a straight-forward process in Lester being convicted given the circumstances of the case, but are still hesitant.

"I think it's a very simple case," Crump said. "It is not a case where Mr. Lester should not be held accountable."

Still, Crump said they're being "vigilant" given how the case was handled in the days following the shooting.

Crump and Merritt question how long it took for Lester to be arrested and charged, as well as the decision for the details of the case to be sealed.

"We're here to make sure that we raise the concerns publicly, that our clients are raising to us privately about, why are they sealing records?" Crump said. "Transparency is key here."

According to Merritt, Lester's attorney has "done everything that he can to zealously advocate for his client."

Merritt doesn't believe Thompson has done the same for Yarl.

"Mr. Thompson doesn't enjoy our full confidence because he has not done the same for Ralph," Merritt said. "We have asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed in this case, and once we make the public request, Mr. Thompson doubled down on his office's ability to handle this case."

Merritt also believes Thompson's actions haven't always matched the promises he's made to Yarl's family.

"Either he lacks the ability to take appropriate legal action, or he's pulling his punches," Merritt said. "Either conclusion is unacceptable to this family. We know that Andrew Lester must be criminally prosecuted for shooting Ralph Yarl for ringing his doorbell."

KSHB 41 received the following statement from Thompson's office on the concerns of Yarl and his family.

"Our hearts continue to go out to all impacted by this case," the statement said. "The focus of our office remains squarely on following the law and achieving justice. Our community deserves no less. Today, Mr. Thompson requested the case be set for preliminary hearing. That is the next step in the process, where a probable cause determination is made. If the court finds probable cause, the case will be bound over to circuit court where the case will be resolved."

In the end, Merritt still believes this is an "easy case" and believes Thompson should be able to get a conviction.

"The evidence here is clear," Merritt said. "This prosecutor, a recently elected prosecutor who's never handled a case of this magnitude, we believe will face some challenges, but should be able to successfully obtain a conviction."