‘It’s like a sinking ship’ St. Louis defense lawyer discusses AG Bailey’s new filing against Gardner

In a Tuesday court filing, Attorney General Andrew Bailey listed more than 30 additional cases he argued are examples of Gardner’s failures.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Victims kept in the dark and people accused of violent crimes they claim they didn’t commit being left behind bars for years. Those are some of the new accusations the Missouri Attorney General claims come from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s failure to do her job.

In a Tuesday court filing, Attorney General Andrew Bailey listed more than 30 additional cases he argued are examples of Gardner’s failures.

“It’s like a sinking ship. You’ve got the crew all working hard to keep it afloat, but the captain is behaving in a way that helps the ship sink,” said St. Louis Defense Lawyer Terrence Niehoff.

Niehoff openly talks about what he thinks is going on in Gardner’s office.

He was the defense lawyer in two of the cases in the Attorney General’s new filing. Niehoff said in both cases, there’s more to the story.

“The big picture is correct, which is Gardner is incompetent,” Niehoff added.

One of the cases dates back to 2020. Niehoff’s client was accused of shooting a woman on the side of a St. Louis road. Last month, prosecutors dismissed the case telling the court the victim “is not cooperative.” According to the Attorney General’s filing, the woman claims prosecutors told her not to appear and she wrote the judge a letter claiming she was “cooperative” and “was willing to come to court to testify.”

Niehoff has another take.

“She was cooperative with the prosecutor to the point of I’ll do everything except appear in court and testify in front of him,” Niehoff said. “Apparently, she went to the grand jury, she returned phone calls and stuff, but she did not want to show up and testify in front of my client.”

In the other case, Niehoff said his client shot someone in self-defense, but during that trial, the judge wouldn’t allow the jury to be instructed about the castle doctrine. The castle doctrine is a legal defense that someone can argue when they are protecting their property.

“She was in her car someone came up and tried to assault her, and she shot the person,” Niehoff said. “She was convicted because the jury didn’t get that here’s a valid defense.”

The woman was convicted and sentenced. The case went to appeals and was sent back to the circuit court for a new trial. The trial was set for last month. At that point, the case was almost 5 years old.

“They couldn’t find some of the witnesses to retry the case,” Niehoff said.

He said the prosecutor didn’t show up for the hearing, so the case was dismissed.

“Most of these cases should be dismissed by the prosecutor, but they are not allowed under Gardner’s reign to dismiss cases,” he added.

The Attorney General’s filing mentions a murder case that was dismissed, which News 4 Investigates recently uncovered.

Levi Henning was charged with murdering Parkway High School senior Carieal Doss almost three years ago. Henning claims he didn’t do it. News 4 Investigates found St. Louis prosecutors for years withheld evidence that pointed to a different suspect. Henning’s case was dropped last week, with prosecutors admitting they didn’t have enough evidence.

“I’ve never seen a case this bad,” Henning’s defense lawyer recently told News 4. “Somebody has to be held accountable for what’s happening.”

News 4 continues reaching out to Gardner’s office for an interview. A spokeswoman responded by saying, “the petition is being reviewed.”

Gardner claims the Attorney General’s push is politically motivated. In a response she filed in court, Gardner blamed any mistakes on her employees.

She has until the end of the month to respond in court to the latest filing.

Niehoff is open in saying he believes as an elected leader, Gardner’s job should be up to the voters.

“Everyone who practices in the city knows, everyone knows what the problems are, we’ve known for six years, it became apparent very quickly,” Niehoff said.