Judge decides not to hold Gardner in contempt of court after CAO failed to show for murder trial

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner skipped a Monday court hearing during which a judge decided not to hold her in contempt for missing a murder trial.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 6:58 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Another no-show from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner as she skipped a Monday court hearing during which a judge decided not to hold her in contempt for missing a murder trial.

All of this comes as Gardner defends her job while the Missouri Attorney General attempts to remove her as the elected prosecutor, accusing Gardner of neglecting her office.

Monday’s hearing involved the September 2021 murder of Brandon Scott, a 29-year-old dad to two young children. Scott’s family claim he was the victim of a road rage shooting after he accidentally turned the wrong way down a one-way street.

“Good people who do right they don’t even get justice when things bad happen to them,” Brandon’s sister April Scott said. “On his way home, he was trying to get on the highway, and he accidentally made a wrong turn and was trying to bust a U-turn to get on the highway.”

One of the men accused of killing Scott, 18-year-old Jonathan Jones, was supposed to have his murder trial last week. No one from the Circuit Attorney’s Office appeared. Judge Scott Milikan sent Gardner a notice saying she had to explain why her office missed the trial and didn’t inform anyone or attempt to reschedule.

The prosecutor assigned to the case has been on sick leave. It is still unclear why another prosecutor wasn’t given the case, and Gardner’s office has not responded to News 4′s questions.

“Everything has just been a slap in the face,” Scott’s sister April added. “I think even the judge was confused about everything, it’s very disturbing.”

While Gardner did not attend Monday’s hearing, she had two lawyers appear on her behalf. One of Gardner’s lawyers apologized for her and said, “we’re not looking for a fight, we’re not looking to cause trouble.”

The prosecutor assigned the case, who is still on sick leave, did attend Monday’s hearing. Recent reporting by News 4 Investigates exposed how Gardner had two of her employees give a letter to the prosecutor at his house saying “you are directed to appear in court.”

In court, the prosecutor lined up pill bottles as proof that he’s sick and on medication. He also apologized, saying he didn’t know why his managers didn’t reassign or reschedule the case.

Judge Milikan decided it was all a miscommunication and didn’t hold anyone in contempt.

The judge noted that he understands the Circuit Attorney’s Office is under a lot of stress and pressure.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s Ms. Gardner’s responsibility to make sure people are doing what they’re supposed to while they’re employed by her,” Milikan said.

Milikan also stated to the court that there are case tracking systems that are currently in use that can show all trials and cases assigned to attorneys.

Jones’ lawyer requested the case be dropped for failure to prosecute and for violating her client’s right to a speedy trial.

The Judge denied that motion. He followed up by saying that prosecutors have an “unusual” pattern of dropping and then refiling cases as a way to restart the clock on cases and avoid violating time limits.

Brandon Scott’s family said they’re concerned that could happen in this case, leaving them facing more delays and days in court.

“We’ve been dealing with this for two years, and nothing’s been done,” Scott’s mom Lana Morris said.

Jones’ lawyer also requested that he be released on bond. The judge denied that, saying in his six years on the bench, he has never released someone facing a first-degree murder charge.

Jones was 16 years old when he was accused of murdering Scott. The courts decided he should be tried as an adult.

Weeks after his arrest, Jones was accused of escaping from the Juvenile Detention Center off Enright and Vandeventer Avenues.

Another man, Mark Perry, is also charged with first-degree murder in Scott’s killing. Perry has been given bond twice by another judge.

News 4 Investigates checked court records and found Perry was initially denied bond, but in December 2021, Judge Michael Mullen released him and put him on GPS tracking. Court records show Perry broke his bond multiple times. Then in August 2022, Perry was arrested in Illinois for a gun charge. Perry stayed locked up until December 2022, when Judge Mullen gave him bond for a second time.