Missouri AG defies judge 6th time, keeps ex-KC cop convicted of manslaughter free | Opinion

What game is Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey playing? Last week, his office defied Court of Appeals District Chief Judge Gary Witt and failed to file a brief in response to Eric DeValkenaere’s October 2022 appeal of his conviction in the killing of Cameron Lamb. For a sixth time.

By ignoring Witt’s warning last month that no further extensions would be granted, Gov. Mike Parson’s appointee is abrogating his responsibilities. Most lawyers worthy of holding a law license would agree: That’s absurd.

If former Kansas City Police detective DeValkenaere’s appeal is thrown out on a legal technicality — a very real possibility — then we must question the motive of the AG’s office.

In 2019, DeValkenaere fatally shot Lamb in the backyard of a home Lamb rented in the 4100 block of College Avenue. After a four-day bench trial in November 2021, Jackson County Circuit Judge Dale Youngs found DeValkenaere guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. Sentenced to six years in prison, DeValkenaere has not spent a day in jail since his conviction.

The AG wants until June 26 to file the DeValkenaere brief. Bailey has been occupied throwing the kitchen sink at former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, his office argued in legal documents filed Wednesday.

As a result of the full-court press to remove Gardner from office — she resigned two weeks early under fire from Bailey and Republican lawmakers — the AG’s office was unable to prepare for the appeals process in the DeValkenaere case, Witt was told. Excuse us?

Witt will grant absolutely no further extensions, according to court records. But a half-dozen continuances are enough. We suggest Bailey properly prepare to defend the state’s position that DeValkenaere committed a serious crime.

We question the excuse that Bailey’s just too busy. In recent days, he’s had the time to blast President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief program on Twitter and issue a press release attacking the administration’s U.S.-Mexico border policy. Those national political fights aren’t what Missouri’s attorney general should be spending his energy on. Upholding DeValkenaere’s conviction is, though.

Lamb’s surviving children and the rest of his family deserve justice. Any attempt to usurp Judge Youngs’ verdict falls outside the purview of the attorney general, according to prosecutors we spoke with.

David Smith is an attorney representing Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey, who has justly filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the former officer and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.

Lamb’s family is concerned about the lack of communication from Bailey’s office, Smith said. Lamb is the victim, the family lawyer reminded us. Does Bailey know this?

“We don’t know what is going on,” said Smith. Neither do most of us. Attempts to reach Bailey’s office for comment were unsuccessful.

No one in the AGs office has reached out to talk to the family, according to Smith. Based on what we’ve seen so far from Bailey, we don’t doubt that claim.

“Six continuances and you’re still not ready?” Smith wondered. “That astonishes me.”

Out of respect for the judicial process, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment.

DeValkenaere’s defense did not oppose the extension, according to legal documents. Why would they? We can’t recall many convicted killers in Jackson County being granted bond while the appeals process plays out.

Allowing a killer a judge found guilty to roam free more than three years after he took a man’s life is a dereliction of duty.

“When we saw that the Missouri attorney general is asking for a continuance on DeValkenaere’s appeal, we were flabbergasted,” said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2, a Kansas City social justice group. “This man’s role is to represent the entire state of Missouri,” she said. “How is it in Missouri’s interests for him to be protecting a rogue police officer?” It isn’t.

It’s fair to ask whether Bailey is pandering to interest groups for future funding for the next election in 2024, McDonald said.

We know Bailey wants to remain in the AGs seat. He’s trying hard to make a name for himself in today’s strange right-wing culture war against actual criminal justice. It isn’t pro-law enforcement to back an ex-officer convicted for fatal misconduct.

In April, Bailey joined a group of attorneys general from around the country demanding the authority to remove duly elected local prosecutors from office. Nonsense. No agent of the state should have the power to target local prosecutors who support criminal justice reform.

We’ve seen the extreme positions Bailey has taken against personal choice in gender-affirming care and a citizen initiative petition on abortion rights as he campaigns for the AG job.

“What about Cameron Lamb’s family?” McDonald asked. “What has (Bailey) done for them but participate in the delaying of any form of justice? Someone should file a complaint to the Missouri Bar Association against this attorney general.” Any takers?

As the maxim says, justice delayed is justice denied. In this case, there is no sense of justice. Just outrage.

Missourians deserve to know why their unelected attorney general is ignoring lawful orders and keeping a convicted killer walking free.