ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A murder suspect has been released from custody after no one from Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office appeared in court for multiple hearings.
The suspect, Brandon Campbell, was charged with first-degree murder in December for the April 9, 2020 death of Randy Moore. However, Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser was forced to dismiss the case last Wednesday after Gardner’s office “abandoned its duty” and failed to show up to three consecutive hearings.
The judge said the decision to drop the charges took “significant consideration” and added that the Circuit Attorney’s office is to blame for any threat to public safety.
“The Circuit Attorney’s Office is ultimately the party responsible for protecting public safety by charging and then prosecuting those it believes commit crimes,” Sengheiser’s order said. “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 prosecutor assigned to Campbell’s case, Kim Arshi, was on maternity leave when the defense counsel filed a motion in May 2021. Therefore, the prosecutor is not expected to respond to anything for up to three months.
This left the Circuit Attorney’s office with the duty of assigning another attorney to appear in court in place of the prosecutor on maternity leave. However, Gardner’s office failed to do so, resulting in several missed hearings and a dismissal of the charges.
Not only did Garner’s office fail to assign a replacement, but Arshi was actually assigned 28 additional felony cases while she was at home on leave. Those lawsuits included more than a dozen murders and a death penalty case, according to court documents. This bizarre instance is seemingly what led to Arshi resigning from the Circuit Attorney’s office on Tuesday.
Gardner released the below statement on Monday regarding Campbell’s dismissed charges:
“Upon review of our internal policies and procedures regarding Family Medical Leave, we have determined that corrective measures are needed to further prevent any future repeat occurrence of the incident in question. The, suggestion, however that there have been additional instances that have occurred like the one in question has not been substantiated.
“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. As a result, the individual in this case is in custody.”
While Gardner concluded that the suspect was in custody, that was not true. According to St. Louis police, Campbell was released from jail on Friday. Gardner later issued a revised statement Tuesday evening confirming that the charges have been refiled and the suspect is still at-large.
The Crime Victims’ Rights Act requires prosecutors to keep the victim’s family informed of significant developments throughout their case. However, Gardner came up short again and failed to inform Moore’s family that Campbell was released from jail. The family only found out that Campbell was released after KSDK’s 5 on Your Side reached out to them for coverage of the case.
While Gardner said in her initial statement that claims of similar instances have not been “substantiated”, that also seems to be untrue. Astoundingly, over 30% of court cases presented by the Circuit Attorney’s office get dismissed either by judges or prosecutors. That’s a substantial increase considering the case dismissal rate was roughly 15% when Gardner took office.
The increased number of thrown out cases could very easily be due to the sky-high rate of turnover in the Circuit Attorney’s office since Garner was elected in January 2017. Since then, Gardner has lost more than 90 attorneys with some citing a dysfunctional office as their reason for leaving.
“Kim Gardner is a poor excuse for a prosecutor,” said one of Moore’s family members after finding out Campbell was freed.
This isn’t the first time Gardner has faced allegations of professional misconduct and criticism for her role as St. Louis Circuit Attorney. In May 2021, Garner’s law license was in jeopardy after she was accused of concealment and misrepresentation, giving false statements and failure to disclose evidence during her investigation of former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.
St. Louis police have issued at-large warrants for Campbell’s arrest and have asked any individual with information regarding his whereabouts to contact CrimeStoppers at 866-371-8477 or Homicide Detectives directly at 314-444-5371.