Criminal Justice

3 murder cases are dismissed in a week partly because of absent or unprepared prosecutors

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The St. Louis circuit attorney’s office is struggling with high turnover and apparent issues with the case management, and that is having an impact on its ability to prosecute cases.

In just one week’s time, three murder cases in the circuit were dismissed, partly because of absent or unprepared prosecutors, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

More than 90 prosecutors have left, a turnover of more than 100%, since St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner began her first term in 2017, according to the article.

The St. Louis circuit attorney’s office voluntarily dropped charges against two murder defendants, and then immediately refiled charges against one of them, Terrion Phillips, starting the case anew, according to the article. The case was set to go to trial this week. An unidentified source told the Post-Dispatch that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the second defendant, Gregory Seddens.

In a third case, a judge ordered the charges tossed against Brandon Campbell after prosecutors didn’t show up in court three times and failed to comply with a discovery deadline. Charges were also refiled in that case, according to previous coverage. That trial had also been set for this week.

Before tossing the case, Judge Jason Sengheiser said the prosecution office had “essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes.” The prosecutor in the case had taken maternity leave last year, and the case was apparently neglected after that, according to the Post-Dispatch.

A newly assigned prosecutor in the Phillips case, Srikant Chigurupati, had unsuccessfully sought to postpone the trial. He said all the previous prosecutors assigned to the case had left, and he was assigned to it on June 17.

Dismissed cases and refiled charges create frustrating delays, according to the chief public defender in St. Louis, Matthew Mahaffey. He told the Post-Dispatch that many defendants are in jail before trial, and any delay “is really unfortunate.” Delays are also hard on public defenders who spend time preparing for trial, only to see the case dismissed as the trial date nears.

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