2016 Circuit Attorney – The Candidates On Issues

courthousephotoThe Circuit Attorney portion of the 6th & 7th Wards Circuit Attorney and Sheriff Candidates Forum was videotaped. Questions were taken from the 7th Ward Independent Democrats Issues Survey. You may view the recordings here and here. Many thanks to Umar Lee for providing this service.

B1) Describe up to three changes you would make in the Circuit Attorney’s Office and estimate how much it will cost or save money. (250 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I would invest in smart prosecution techniques such as diversion, alternative sentencing programs and restorative justice. I would establish a Witness Protection Unit to protect people who come forward and stand up to violent crime.  I will also secure our neighborhoods by creating a community council and developing initiatives to work more closely with the community. Budget implications are still to be calculated.

Kimberly M. Gardner: As the Circuit Attorney, I will pursue justice with fairness, transparency and compliance with the laws of the State of Missouri. I would change the Circuit Attorney’s office by creating and implementing policies that move from mere “tough on crime” rhetoric to result oriented crime reduction initiatives. I would implement a comprehensive approach to build trust in the criminal justice system among all community stakeholders. I would work to create true diversion programs for non-violent offenders to address the systemic, economic, mental health and drug addiction challenges many face within our current system of criminal justice. I will implement an ethics policy with teeth within the Circuit Attorney’s office using innovation to make it easier for witnesses and victims to participate in the criminal justice system process. I would look for innovative ways and alternative measures and sources that help make the office more efficient in carrying out its mission.

Patrick Hamacher: Expand Diversionary Programs – It costs about $23,000 to send someone to the Missouri Department of Corrections for a year while it costs roughly $7,000 to send someone through a Drug Court Program.  While 7 out of 10 people return to the MDC, only 3 of 10 sent to a Drug Court Program re-offend.  As Circuit Attorney, I will expand diversionary programs for first-time offenders, veterans, and those with drug addiction issues and mental illnesses.  The cost savings of these programs will compound over time and save taxpayers thousands of dollars. Eliminate an Executive Staff Position – Right now, the staff of the Circuit Attorney’s Office is unbalanced.  We need more prosecutors trying cases, more attorneys expanding diversionary programs, and fewer supervisory positions.  The lowest paid member of the Executive Staff makes over $90,000 per year.  If that position was changed to a mid-level attorney position, the savings of more then $30,000 could be applied to the salary of new attorneys to make the office more competitive with the County’s Prosecuting Office and other regional systems. Establish a Recruiting Program – Currently, only 3 of our 60 prosecutors are African American.  While I acknowledge the pool of applicants is small, I believe we can do a better job of recruiting minority attorneys to better reflect the community we serve.  I plan to send representatives to recruit from the local law schools, the 5 law schools in Chicago, and University of Missouri.  Our cost of living is very affordable and the experience possible at our prosecutors’ office is unparalleled compared to most other major cites.

Steve Harmon: Bring diversity to the office so that the entire staff reflects the ethnicity of the city the office serves. Same costs as the office currently has for recruiting staff. Better training for the Investigative staff. Same costs as the office currently has; however as a former law enforcement officer/investigator I can better direct what types of training the investigators need.

B2) Name a government office/agency you would like to see the Circuit Attorney’s Office work closer with and describe how that collaboration would result in cost savings and/or better services and/or greater efficiency. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: The police department.  We need to work hand-in-hand with the police to make sure we continue to efficiently and effectively work to prevent crime in the City.

Kimberly M. Gardner: Work collaboratively with the Mayor, law enforcement, probation and parole, Courts, Missouri Department of Mental health and Social Services and community stakeholders. Using key stakeholders to develop a united and collaborative approach to reduce and deter crime. This will ensure a safer City and enhance economic viability. These approaches have been utilized in other jurisdictions and will save taxpayer dollars.

Patrick Hamacher: It is important that the next Circuit Attorney collaborates with the SLMPD in order to prioritize the most violent offenders and work with them to issue more cases and build stronger cases against those committing the most violent acts.  I also want to use technology to make sure that we are receiving police reports and evidence more efficiently, sharing data, and targeting the most violent offenders.

Steve Harmon: Public Defender’s Office. The Circuit Attorney and Public Defender should work better at resolving cases quicker by offering recommendations to the attorneys and reducing unnecessary trials and trial preparation.

B3) Name the current Circuit Attorney’s greatest strength and biggest weakness. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: Jennifer Joyce is a strong regional leader, extremely competent prosecutor, and willing to think outside the box for solutions – I’m proud to have her endorsement. Jennifer Joyce’s greatest mistake was not fostering better communication between the Circuit Attorney’s Office and the Judges.

Kimberly M. Gardner: Jennifer Joyce’s sixteen year commitment in serving the public must first be noted. However, there are challenges that transcend any one person or officeholder. One of the biggest challenges is the way the office implements policies to address increasing rates of crime and engaging community in those efforts. The weakness is the lack of priority in establishing a trust between victims of crime and those in the community, who are vital links in fighting crime.

Patrick Hamacher: Jennifer has a tremendous amount of integrity.  She makes well thought out decisions, commands respect, and sets a great example as a public servant. Jennifer recently started a gun diversionary program with funding through a federal grant.  This is a program that should have been implemented years ago.  As Circuit Attorney, I will advocate for expansion of the existing program and creation of new programs to stop the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

Steve Harmon: Current Circuit Attorney is not seeking re-election.

B4) Should the St. Louis City Circuit Court (22nd Judicial District) and St. Louis County Circuit Court (21st Judicial District) share one jury pool of city and county residents with jury services provided by one office? Explain. (75 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: St. Louis City and County should find ways to work to better regionally, sharing a single jury pool might be a good start.

Kimberly M. Gardner: I do not believe that we should combine St. Louis County Circuit Courts and St. Louis City Circuit Courts jury pools. The Jury Service should be representative and reflective of the population in their respective jurisdiction. It is imperative for the next prosecutor to work with the Courts to educate and recruit more City residents to participate in the judicial process. I believe it is crucial to make it easier for citizens in the City to participate in the Jury process.

Patrick Hamacher: No, they should not share one jury pool.  In the City, we have different crime issues than the County and our juries should be reflective of the communities where the crimes occur.  As City residents, there is a sense of investment in serving a role in the criminal justice system for your community.  I don’t think the same sense of investment would occur should jurors serve outside of their place of residency.

Steve Harmon: No. People should be judged by a jury of their peers. In the Circuit Courts of the City of St. Louis, a defendant’s peers should come from the City of St. Louis.

B5) Should the City of St. Louis re-enter St. Louis County as a municipality and give up operating its own county offices and collecting/spending its own county revenue? Explain. If Yes, should this change require approval by St. Louis City and St. Louis County voters?  (75 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: The City and County should find ways to work together for the betterment of the region.  Voters should determine the best way to do so.

Kimberly M. Gardner: I respect the will of the voters who’ve decided that merging St. Louis City and St. Louis County is not what they want. I would not handicap the right of the voters, or their respective leaderships if they decide a merger is in their best interest. I support strengthening the region by finding ways to save tax dollars and increase regional efficiencies.

Patrick Hamacher: I am in support of merging the City and County to eliminate redundancy and administrative waste. While I acknowledge that it would benefit the City of St. Louis on a national level, it is not something I will concentrate on as the Circuit Attorney.  As was the case in Indianapolis, the consolidation could take place by an act of the state legislature.

Steve Harmon: Not relevant to the Circuit Attorneys race.

B6) Should St. Louis City retain the nonpartisan court plan in which the governor appoints circuit court judges or should voters elect circuit court judges? Explain. (75 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: We should retain the nonpartisan court plan.

Kimberly M. Gardner: The nonpartisan court plan, while not perfect, has worked well and has kept money and politics out of our court system. We should retain this system.

Patrick Hamacher: I would keep the nonpartisan court plan because it keeps outside influences like corporations and political action committees from influencing the election process.  It is especially important when we are selecting judges to keep the political process out of it.  While I acknowledge the current process does not entirely do this, it is less biased than an open voting process.

Steve Harmon: Yes. This is a fair plan and does not require judges to campaign for office.

B7) If elected, will you enforce St. Louis City’s Residency Requirement with regard to Circuit Attorney’s Office employees? Explain. (75 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: We need to do what is best to attract and retain the best prosecutors in the region.

Kimberly M. Gardner: The current office holder does not require that all of the office’s employees live in the City of St. Louis. I am a strong proponent of anyone working for the City of St. Louis to be a resident in the City of St. Louis. I believe we can attract and retain qualified people to work in this office who will live in St. Louis City

Patrick Hamacher: Because the legal profession is so competitive for young attorneys, in order to ensure quality talent, I would not enforce the Residency Requirement for staff and attorneys.  However, I would strongly encourage the Residency Requirement for members of the Executive Staff as they will be assisting in the policy decisions about crime in our city and should have a direct stake in the results of their decisions.

Steve Harmon: Yes.

B8) Should Circuit Attorney’s Office employees become Civil Service employees or remain patronage positions? Explain. If Yes, should this change require approval by St. Louis City voters?  (75 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: As mentioned above, we need to do what is best to attract and retain the best prosecutors in the region, the current arrangement gives us the best flexibility to do so.

Kimberly M. Gardner: The Circuit Attorney should be able to retain some core control over the office and the staff by offering Civil Service protection to its employees. This provides some measure of security from political or outside interference.

Patrick Hamacher: The Circuit Attorney is a policy-making position.  As a policy maker, the Circuit Attorney needs the ability to bring on attorneys and staff that believe in similar policy positions.  Also, due to the nature and necessity of the specialized skills CAO employees require, staffing decisions should remain a responsibility of the Prosecutor.

Steve Harmon: Unclear what “Office employees” are.

B9) What changes, if any, do you support in the regulation of firearms at local, state, or federal level? (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I support strengthening universal background checks and providing better mental health screening.

Kimberly M. Gardner: I support regulation of firearms at the local, State and Federal levels. I believe in universal background checks, closing the loopholes, 72 hour waiting period after gun purchases and requiring lock boxes for gun owners in vehicles. I strongly believe that local jurisdictions should have some control over the regulations of firearms. We need to be able to enact legislation or ordinances that we feel are in the best interest of keeping our communities safe.

Patrick Hamacher: While I support the Second Amendment and the rights of citizens to own guns, as a City with 188 murders last year, we need fewer guns on our streets.  I support the regulation of firearms at all levels by instituting stricter regulations on automatic weapons and multi-gun purchases.  We need to make it harder for convicted felons and the mentally ill to get access to guns.  As Circuit Attorney, I plan to work with leaders at all levels to advocate for policy that takes guns off our streets and supports those who lawfully own them.

Steve Harmon: Raise the age for conceal and carry permits. Restrict firearms from being brought to all schools. Require conceal and carry permit holders to obtain liability insurance. Require handguns to be placed in vehicle gun safes if let in a vehicle. Require handgun owners to report any theft of their handguns to the police.

B10) Describe your position on the Death Penalty. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I would consider whether it is an appropriate punishment to submit to a jury on select cases. I believe the Circuit Attorney’s Office must have objective procedures to measure whether it is being applied fairly and evenly. I would allow a defendant to plead to a life sentence in lieu of seeking the Death Penalty.

Kimberly M. Gardner: I am personally opposed to the Death Penalty. However, as the next Circuit Attorney of the City of St. Louis I must follow the laws of the State of Missouri. A recent 2012 report about the Death Penalty stated that Missouri’s Death Penalty statutes broadly define circumstances under which the Death Penalty can be applied. There are many debates on the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent. It fails to consider the implicit biases, disparities among prosecutors, and inefficiencies in utilization of limited resources when pursuing and defending a death penalty case. Accordingly, I will work with the Legislature, and voters to create safeguards to clarify when and how the death penalty is fairly and justly applied. I support legislation that may potentially let the voters determine the viability of the Missouri death penalty statute.

Patrick Hamacher: I believe in the death penalty in rare circumstances.  As a prosecutor, I evaluate all sentences on a case by case basis and would consider the death penalty in very limited cases.

Steve Harmon: The State of Missouri has the death penalty. As prosecutor I will be sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and Missouri and enforce the laws of the State of Missouri.

B11) Should marijuana be decriminalized, legalized, regulated, taxed, for medicinal purposes, for recreational purposes? Explain. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I believe marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes. Voters should determine to what extent marijuana is decriminalized and regulated.

Kimberly M. Gardner: The voters of the State of Missouri and the City of St. Louis should be allowed to make the decision about the regulation, taxation and legalization of marijuana . However, we must be mindful that criminalization of marijuana has come at a significant fiscal cost to our government and taxpayers. I support medical use of marijuana for treatment of cancer, seizures and other health uses. I also support better options for prosecuting low-level drug offences than incarceration.

Patrick Hamacher: I support the decriminalization of marijuana.  Regardless of views on the drug itself, it is not a good use of our resources to have police and prosecutors spending their time and taxpayer dollars on cases involving the personal possession of marijuana.  Instead, we should concentrate on holding the most violent offenders accountable and seeking alternatives to prosecution for those with drug addiction issues.

Steve Harmon: Decriminalized for medicinal purposes only.

B12) Should violence against an abortion provider/reproductive health clinic be investigated and prosecuted as domestic terrorism? Explain. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: Violence against any person is a crime and should be prosecuted.

Kimberly M. Gardner: Violence against abortion service providers should be investigated and prosecuted as domestic terrorism. Every resource should be employed to protect the interest of our citizens. People that engage in acts of terrorism should be prosecuted as such and no resource should be spared to protect the community and bring them to justice.

Patrick Hamacher: As Missouri law is currently written, violence against an abortion provider/reproduction health clinic would not be considered terrorism and/or a hate crime.  That being said, I believe it should be considered a hate crime and should be prosecuted accordingly.

Steve Harmon: Possibly on a case-by-case basis. The facts of a particular case should be determining factor.

B13) If elected, name one specific state or local change in law/policy that you would champion. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I think we need more diversion programs for first time offenders – we need to be “smart on crime” as well as “tough on crime.”

Kimberly M. Gardner: I will support a policy of special prosecutors in deadly use of force cases involving citizens and law enforcement. I will enact a policy will employ the use of a “Special Prosecutor” in any case involving the police use of deadly force. This would avoid any perception of conflict and bias because of the intimate working relationship between the Circuit Attorney’s Office and the St. Louis Police Department.

Patrick Hamacher: If elected, I would champion the establishment of a City of St. Louis Mental Health Court.  Offering diversionary options to people with mental illnesses have proven to reduce recidivism rates, save taxpayer dollars, and offer a second chance to St. Louis residents who have mental health issues.

Steve Harmon: Bring much needed resources to communities that lack resources, (jobs, education, housing, healthcare, recreational activities, etc.) to help reduce crime.

B14) Name one specific state or local change in law/policy that you believe the next Mayor of St. Louis should champion. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl:  The next Mayor of St. Louis needs to be a champion for our schools and better regional cooperation to enhance the economic environment and create jobs for our citizens.

Kimberly M. Gardner: The Mayor and the Board of Alderman should expand the authority of the Civilian Review Board to include subpoena power. This would create greater transparency and trust within the criminal justice system.

Patrick Hamacher: The next Mayor of St. Louis should advocate for more state funding for public education.  Lack of access to quality education is what leads many of the defendants I see on a daily basis into the criminal justice system and our state needs to reinvest in our public schools to ensure that children are getting the education they need to be successful adults.

Steve Harmon: I’m not a Mayoral candidate.

B16) If elected, are there are any offenses that you will not prosecute or direct to be prosecuted by others? Explain. (150 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I’m not going to rule out using any tool at our disposal to stop crime in St. Louis. Cases should be considered on an individual basis.

Kimberly M. Gardner: My administration will always uphold the law of the State of Missouri, but the resources of the Circuit Attorney’s Office are valuable and limited and must be focused on making our City safe. I would apply the resources of the office on major criminal activities, not minor drug offenses. The prosecution of felony offenses, crimes against properties and persons, murder, theft would be a priority of my administration. Minor possession cases involving marijuana will not be a main focus. In fact, we must find better solutions to addressing our regional drug problem that includes helping drug offenders return to a life of normalcy and productivity. Incarceration is not always the solution to the drug epidemic.

Patrick Hamacher: I will not prosecute the misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  The enforcement of these laws has shown to disproportionately affect minority communities, crowd the criminal docket system, and waste law enforcement resources. I would also call for a Special Prosecutor in officer-involved shooting cases.  As a prosecutor, I rely on the police to do my job every day.  After working with these people for years, I have become friends with many members of the SLMPD.  I have also worked on these cases in the past and they require immense resources, taking prosecutors away from their usual duties.  By calling for a Special Prosecutor, I remove the conflict of interest issue and free up resources to concentrate on the most violent offenders.

Steve Harmon: There are many, many offenses. Nothing particularly comes to mind. Potentially some “victimless” offenses.

B17) Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Rather Not Say? Please Pick One. Not an Essay question.

Mary Pat Carl: Black Lives Matter

Kimberly M. Gardner: Black Lives Matter

Patrick Hamacher: Black Lives Matter

Steve Harmon: All Lives Matter.

B18) Describe a unique experience or relationship that you believe makes you the best candidate for Circuit Attorney. (100 words or less)

Mary Pat Carl: I’m most experienced prosecutor by far, in fact I have served as a prosecutor longer than all of my opponents’ experience put together.  I’m “tough on crime”, but also “smart on crime.” I’ll use diversion programs that allow low-level offenders to repay their debt to society while getting job training and educational opportunities.  I’ve spent my career prosecuting thousands of domestic violence, child abuse and violent crimes. I will protect the most vulnerable, collecting child support for children with deadbeat parents and establishing a fraud unit to prosecute criminals who target seniors. I would be honored to have your vote.

Kimberly M. Gardner: In the aftermath of Ferguson, there are new challenges that need to be addressed in regards to our criminal justice system. I have the skillset as a former prosecutor, a current legislator, a registered nurse and a practicing attorney to understand the unique challenges of leading the office in this post-Ferguson climate. I understand the systemic, social and economic issues to comprehensively address how we make the office more efficient in reducing and preventing violent crime. I understand the policies and skills to build trust in the criminal justice system and put smart on crime policies in place. If elected, I will be the first African-American female Circuit Attorney in the City of Saint Louis.

Patrick Hamacher: In 2015 I created an office-wide Mentorship Program to increase attorney retention, office morale, and develop leaders within the Circuit Attorney’s Office.  I observed that new attorneys were coming into the office often unprepared for the courtroom and overwhelmed by the workload.  We were losing some of our most promising prosecutors.  I took the initiative to create the Mentorship Program to make sure that we have a chance to retain quality prosecutors who love their job.

Steve Harmon:  I possess the unique experience of investigating all types of offenses ranging from simple trespassing to 1st Degree Murder and have conducted numerous investigations. As a police supervisor and commander, I know what good police work is, as well as bad police work. I am the only candidate that has supervisory and managerial experience. I am the only candidate that has managed a staff and a budget.