Much has been reported lately about a certain associate circuit judge in St. Louis County (in the St. Louis Post Dispatch) who received low marks from attorneys and fellow judges. Perhaps the voting public needs to learn about all judicial decisions these men and women hand down so that they can make more informed decisions at the polls. I am not interested in whether or not a lawyer has a positive or negative opinion of a judge that may have ruled for or against them in court. What I am interested in is the ability of judges to hold criminals accountable for the crimes they commit against the citizens of St. Louis County.
To that end, Judge Kristine Kerr has failed. Following a recent trial, where a jury of 12 citizens recommended that the defendant be sentenced to the maximum sentence of seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the charge of domestic assault in the second degree, Judge Kerr decided not to follow the wishes of the jury that heard and decided the case, and over the objections of the assistant prosecuting attorney, Judge Kerr was considering suspending the execution of sentence and placing the defendant on five years of probation.
Instead, she sentenced him to 120 days of shock incarceration and left the door open for him to be released after that time and then be placed on probation.
The jury that decided this case must feel that their time, attention and efforts were meaningless. They did not recommend shock time. They did not tell the judge to shorten his sentence. They did not recommend probation. By their sentence, they were asking this judge to hold this man accountable for brutally beating his girlfriend. What is even more egregious is this judge handed down this sentence during the month of October which is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
By her actions, Judge Kerr has helped victims of domestic violence about as much as Todd Akin has helped victims of sexual assault. Unfortunately, Judge Kristine Kerr is not up for retention this year. Perhaps a more effective way to evaluate the judiciary will be in place by the next election cycle.
Lisa M. Jones
Victim Service Division
Office of Prosecuting Attorney St. Louis County