The parents of Mansur Ball-Bey received the crushing news last week that there would be no justice for their son coming from the St. Louis circuit attorney. The 18-year-old was gunned down by St. Louis police officers Ronald Vaughan and Kyle Chandler last year. Both officers are white, Ball-Bey is African-American. He was killed on the anniversary of Kajieme Powell, also killed by St. Louis police.
Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce claims that there was insufficient evidence to charge the officers, but she didn’t take a stand on whether the shooting was justified. This is the kind of muddled process that often allows officers a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Well, you might say, Joyce is prosecuting ex-STPD cop Jason Stockley for the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Again, Stockley is white and Smith is black. At the time of the shooting, Joyce also claimed there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against the officer.
Then came the family’s lawsuit and one of the biggest payouts in the department’s history – $900,000. It was after this settlement – and public records requests about the case by activists – that we hear about Stockley’s prosecution.
Supporters of Reggie Clemons are outraged about Joyce’s decision to file new murder, rape and robbery charges after his previous conviction for murder – and death sentence – was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that Clemons’ trial jury should have been presented with evidence that his confession – to rape, not murder – was coerced by a police beating.
First, there’s the question of the misuse of taxpayers’ dollars to take on an expensive trial when there’s already been due diligence done on the case. We can’t ignore the indisputable history of racial bias and incompetence of the circuit attorney’s office. And then there’s the fact that St. Louis is in the middle of an important election for the next city prosecutor.
While there have been several cases of wrongful conviction that have come to light over the years, I believe there are hundreds of people who languished in prison for years or who are still incarcerated due to prosecutorial misconduct.
The case of Fredrico Lowe-Bey is one of those cases. Centurion Ministries has been working on the case for years with full resistance from the circuit attorney’s office to regard the compelling evidence. Lowe-Bey was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1988; he has already served more time than some who have committed an actual murder. There is no physical evidence linking Lowe-Bey to the crime, but Joyce’s office has been dogged in its refusal to admit they are wrong.
Groups like Centurion Ministries and The Innocence Project are in existence only because of the incredible injustices perpetrated by the very offices that are supposed to pursue truth and justice. Because of the number of wrongful convictions in this country, you are a lucky soul if your case gets chosen by one of these groups.
There is a field of five candidates currently running for circuit attorney. One has the blessing of Jennifer Joyce. Given the history of incompetence and corruption of this office, the August 2 election is an important one.
If you don’t know about the office functions or about the candidates, check out the candidate debate at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at Wool Ballroom at SLU's Busch Student Center.