CORRECTION St. Louis Prosecutor

In this 2020 photo, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks a news conference in St. Louis. Three murder cases were dropped this past week, with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office dismissing two of the charges.

ST. LOUIS — Three St. Louis murder cases have been dismissed in the past week.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office on Monday dropped the case against 19-year-old Terrion L. Phillips, whose trial in the fatal shooting of a man washing his truck at a park in 2019 had been scheduled for this week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Prosecutors refiled charges the same day.

The assistant prosecutor handling Phillips’ case wrote in court filings that he didn’t have enough time to prepare for trial. He was hired June 3 and assigned to the case June 17, and the newspaper reported he tried another murder case last week.

Matthew Mahaffey, chief public defender in St. Louis, told the newspaper that dropping and refiling murder charges on the day of trial creates a frustrating delay.

“Any delay is really unfortunate for that person because, a lot of times a lot of them are incarcerated — most of them are,” Mahaffey said.

Last week, the Circuit Attorney’s Office also dropped murder charges against 31-year-old Gregory Seddens, who was set to go to trial this week. He’s accused of killing his alleged accomplice during a 2018 break-in.

And Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser last week dismissed charges against 30-year-old Brandon Campbell in a 2020 murder. Gardner’s office refiled charges last week, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

A St. Louis police spokeswoman said Campbell was at large as of Monday.

Sengheiser cited a delay in the case after the prosecutor took maternity leave.

“In a case like this, where the Circuit Attorney’s office has essentially abandoned its duty to prosecute those it charges with crimes, the court must impartially enforce the law and any resultant threat to public safety is the responsibility of the Circuit Attorney’s Office,” the judge wrote in his order dismissing the case.

Gardner said in a statement that she’s reviewing the office family medical leave policy to prevent similar issues in the future.

“Be assured that as the circuit attorney of the city of St. Louis, I am accountable to the public for the actions of the office and remain committed as ever to upholding the highest possible standards and practices of accountability at all levels of this office, particularly the public safety of the residents of the city of St. Louis,” she said.

Gardner has been a frequent target of criticism since voters elected her in 2016.

Gardner has stopped prosecuting non-violent crimes and low-level drug cases, and ended the cash bail system. She also angered police by developing a list of officers who weren’t allowed to bring cases to her office after a national group accused the officers of posting racist and anti-Muslim comments on social media.

Despite some vocal critics, she easily won reelection in 2020.

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