St. Louis prosecutor wants to boost staffing, asks for $500K more (2024)

Katie Kull

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore is asking for $538,000 more in the city’s upcoming budget to boost staffing.

At a news conference Thursday recapping his first year in office, the city’s top prosecutor said the additional money would allow him to hire much-needed support staff, plus an attorney to comb through wrongful conviction claims.

“Our office wants to get things right,” he said.

It’s part of his effort, he said, to re-staff and rehabilitate an office that was buckling under the pressure of a massive case backlog and administrative neglect when he took over from former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner.

Gardner rode into office on promises of progressive change, including wrongful conviction reviews and expanded diversion programs to keep first-time offenders out of prison. But by the end of her tenure, just 40 of the thousands of pending cases in the office had been referred to diversion programs and none of her full-time staff were tasked with reviewing wrongful convictions.

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Gore was appointed by Rep. Gov. Mike Parson and declined to define himself by labels like “progressive” or “tough on crime.”

Since then, he has ramped up diversion programs to keep first-time nonviolent offenders from facing prison time and is also working with police to repair a relationship that was strained under Gardner’s tenure. He is charging more cases and has hired 33 attorneys and 26 support staff members and cleared 70 of the 250 homicide cases that were pending in May 2023. There were just 22 attorneys on staff when he took over.

“Our work this year we know has saved lives, and we know has improved public safety in the city of St. Louis,” Gore said.

But there are still 237 homicide cases pending in the city — more than twice the previous averages in the office before Gardner took over — as new cases keep coming and backlog cases remain.

And help from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and private firms, which agreed to offer volunteer attorneys to handle several homicide cases, will soon end.

So Gore said he will focus this year on training a cadre of promising young lawyers, and give the office long-term sustainability. He has seven new law school grads joining the office in October.

“We want them to be prepared,” he said.

On the administrative side, Gore said is grappling with neglected office infrastructure, including an IT system, separate from the city’s, that needs significant maintenance, upgrades and security improvements.

He asked the Board of Aldermen’s budget committee Wednesday to fund two new IT positions, doubling the department’s staff. Gore said soon after taking office, experts told him that in the private sector, an office the size of the circuit attorney’s office would have eight IT workers.

Gore also asked for two data analyst positions, which he said would monitor trends in crime and prosecutions to make “data-driven” decisions. He also requested another paralegal to support six attorneys, he said.

And he asked for an attorney to work full time for his conviction integrity unit, which is now a one-man operation: retired Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George Draper, who is also the office’s chief training officer.

That unit has received dozens of submissions, including an inquiry from a man who claimed his innocence in a rape in the 1980s. Gore said those reviews are happening one at a time. He said he hopes to continue to get help from private firms to help out as they did in a recent case where Gore and former appeals court judge Booker Shaw filed to free Christopher Dunn, who claimed his innocence in a 1990 murder. A judge is currently considering whether to vacate Dunn’s conviction.

Gore said he knows that the criminal justice system is not infallible and he hopes the focus on conviction integrity shows “we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves when it is appropriate.”

Alderman Rasheen Aldridge said at the budget committee meeting on Wednesday that he would sponsor an amendment to help Gore get his positions.

“I think it’s critical,” Aldridge said.

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  • Gabe Gore
  • St Louis Circuit Attorney
  • Kimberly M Gardner
  • Homicide
  • Rasheen Aldridge
  • U.s. Attorney's Office
  • Wrongful Conviction

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St. Louis prosecutor wants to boost staffing, asks for $500K more (2024)

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