Kim Gardner was supposed to be tough on crime.
Gardner, the first black woman to be elected St. Louis's circuit attorney, campaigned on progressive changes and vowed to go after criminals and hold them accountable. She did flashy interviews on 60 Minutes and Nightline and grabbed even more headlines when she sued the city, its police union, and five others in 2020 for what she called a racist effort to block her reform agenda.
Today, she stands accused by members of the public, her former employees, and a circuit court judge of a dereliction of duty. Her office has been faulted for making egregious errors that led to the dismissal of three murder cases in a week. They've also been accused of turning their backs on the families of victims and have been no-shows to multiple court hearings.
"Kim Gardner is a poor excuse for a prosecutor," Cierra Moore told KSDK.
Moore's brother, Randy Moore, was allegedly gunned down in 2020 by Brandon Campbell.
Campbell was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and unlawful gun possession. If found guilty, he would have faced life behind bars. But a circuit judge was forced to dismiss the case after a St. Louis prosecutor under Gardner's watch had failed to show up to three hearings and did not comply with a court order to produce evidence to Campbell's defense attorney.
The assigned prosecutor, Kimberly Arshi, was on maternity leave at the time. However, her electronic signature apparently wasn't. It was found on nearly 30 felony cases while she was out, including more than a dozen murders, a death penalty case, several assaults and robberies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
In the Campbell case, court documents case show Arshi was assigned it on May 17 — a week after she began maternity leave.
Arshi has since resigned.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser, who dismissed the Campbell case, issued a scathing rebuke of Gardner's office.
"In a case like this where the Circuit Attorney's office has essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes, the court must impartially enforce the law and any resultant threat to the public is the responsibility of the Circuit Attorney's Office," Sengheiser wrote in his order.
Gardner blamed the dismissal of charges on "internal policies and procedures regarding family medical leave." She added that "corrective measures are needed to further prevent any future repeat occurrence of the incident in question." What she didn't explain was why no one else was assigned the Campbell case.
St. Louis is America's reigning murder capital and has become a symbol of urban decay with a soft-on-crime mayor and chief prosecutor more focused on social justice than law and order.
More than 90 prosecutors have quit since Gardner was elected in 2017. While some left for better jobs, others said it was the dysfunction that drove them out.
Former prosecutor Patrick Hamacher, who worked for Gardner, recently broke his silence about his ex-boss.
"I'm really concerned about what is going on in that office right now," he told KSDK, adding that if St. Louis wants to become a safer city, changes must be made at the Circuit Attorney's Office.
Hamacher ran against Gardner when she was first elected but stayed on an extra year because he supported the progressive reforms she promised to bring to the city’s criminal justice system. But within months, his caseload tripled as the number of prosecutors dropped to about half the original staff of the previous circuit attorney.
"At some point, she either needs to go out and ask for help or really do some inward thinking about what she can do better as a prosecutor," he said. "The city ... we're relying on her to be the circuit attorney."
One person not willing to weigh in on the accusations against Gardner is St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones.
"The circuit attorney is an independently elected official, and she is accountable to the citizens of the City of St. Louis," Jones said. "I can't tell her how to run her office, and I don't expect her to tell me how to run mine."
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Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty
Original Location: St. Louis chief prosecutor Kim Gardner accused of dereliction of duty