Bill to appoint special prosecutor passes Missouri House

The Missouri State Capitol is seen Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Jefferson City, Mo.
The Missouri State Capitol is seen Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Jefferson City, Mo.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 11:19 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:29 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CITY (KMOV) – The Missouri House of Representatives passed the special prosecutor bill Thursday.

The bill passed 109-35, but an emergency clause that would have pushed up the effective date if the Senate passed the bill was not passed.

Last month, Rep. Lane Roberts (R-Joplin) presented House Bill 301 to the crime prevention and public safety committee. The original bill would allow Gov. Mike Parson to send a special prosecutor to St. Louis with its own office and staff with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.

“The failure to incarcerate the people committing these homicides will exist today, it existed yesterday, it will exist tomorrow and every single day that we don’t act,” said Roberts.

The bill passed by the Missouri House no longer specifies the special prosecutor just to be for St. Louis, but for any municipality that would meet set criteria involving homicides.

The special prosecutor would focus on major felonies like murders, carjackings, and other violent crimes.

Some St. Louis Democrats rebuked the bill, including Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis City), who said that if Republicans really wanted to stop crime, they’d vote for bills to get guns off the street and out of the hands of juveniles.

“I’m tired of these tired solutions that don’t work when we are begging and pleading and telling you what will,” said Merideth.

The bill requires mandatory minimum sentences for all felons convicted of an additional felony, outside of drug and alcohol offenses. It does allow for offenders of several lesser felonies to not go to prison if the judge believes prison would be harmful.

It also creates ‘Blair’s Law’ which creates the offense of ‘unlawful discharge of a firearm’ for any person that fires a gun within any Missouri city. Some exceptions to the law include self-defense, law enforcement activity, legal hunting and if the person is more than a mile from any physical structure.

St. Louis police said there are 4,195 pending warrant applications at St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office. The office disputes the number of backlogged cases, stating there are less than 3,000.

The Circuit Attorney’s Office sent the following statement when the bill was filed:

“HB301 is a political gesture based entirely on unfounded premises. The notion that anything presented in the bill will improve our violent crime situation is ridiculous. It defies logic to think the creation of a duplicative department that’s totally devoid of the relationships, institutional knowledge, criminal justice partnerships, and experience required to prosecute these complex cases would do anything to curb crime.”

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey told News 4 today that his office is already willing to help if asked.

“The Attorney general stands ready to assist in those prosecutions where they deem it appropriate,” said Bailey (R).

The Missouri House is also weighing other bills that could impact St. Louis. One bill would place the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department back under state control like it was prior to 2012 and similar to what the Kansas City Police Department currently has. In 2012, then-Mayor Francis Slay claimed the move would save the City of St. Louis around $4 million a year and reduce crime. Proponents of state control claim neighborhoods are not safer.

A set date for the bill to be presented to the Missouri Senate has not been announced.