Prosecutorial Misconduct:

America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors: How Overzealous Personalities Drive The Death Penalty

A 2017 report from the Fair Punishment Project, a joint initiative of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute, analyzed prosecutorial misconduct across the country. The top four prosecutors with the most egregious levels of misconduct includes Jennifer Joyce from St. Louis County, Missouri:

“Jennifer Joyce, City of St. Louis, Missouri (2000 – 2016)

Misconduct Rank #1 out of 115 jurisdictions
Reversal Rank #1 out of 115 jurisdictions
Misconduct Rank Per Capita* #2 out of 115 jurisdictions
Reversal Rank Per Capita* #4 out of 115 jurisdictions

Jennifer Joyce joined the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office as an Assistant Circuit Attorney in 1994 and was elected as Circuit Attorney in 2000. She did not seek re-election in 2016,[38] and in 2017 Kim Gardner became the Circuit Attorney. Gardner, who previously worked as a prosecutor under Joyce from 2005 to 2010, won the election in part by pledging to pursue significant reforms.[39] Joyce’s tenure was marred by serious misconduct. The jurisdiction ranked first in the state for total number of misconduct findings and reversals, and had the second highest rate of misconduct findings when adjusted for population size. It is too soon to know whether Gardner will allow this rate of misconduct to continue, or institute serious reforms as promised.

While in office, Joyce both personally engaged in misconduct and regularly defended misconduct committed by prosecutors who had worked in the office before her tenure. Our research found six instances of misconduct between 2010 and 2015, ranging from hiding evidence from the defense to grossly inappropriate behavior aimed at illegally influencing a jury.

In 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals chastised Joyce personally for making highly inappropriate statements on Twitter about a defendant in a rape trial, saying that the behavior threatened to “taint the jury and result in reversal of the verdict.”[40] The court was “especially troubled by Joyce’s timing because broadcasting such statements immediately before and during trial greatly magnifies the risk that a jury will be tainted by undue extrajudicial influences.”[41] Joyce expressed no regret about her behavior, remaining “unrepentant and even buoyed by the court of appeals’ ruling.”[42]

There is also significant evidence that Joyce repeatedly broke a Missouri law that requires prosecutors to disclose to defense counsel the contact information for the State’s witnesses that will testify at a hearing or at trial.[43] According to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Joyce “has a long-standing practice, dating back some ten years, of deleting this [contact] information from police reports . . . before providing the reports to defense counsel.”[44] The Missouri Court of Appeals called Joyce’s defense of the practice “completely devoid of any facts whatsoever,” [45] and ordered her to “stop immediately.”[46]

In addition to misconduct committed under her watch, Joyce’s office repeatedly defended misconduct and unethical behavior committed by long-time line prosecutor Nels Moss, Jr.[47] In 1993, Moss prosecuted Reginald Clemons and put him on death row for the 1991 murders of Robin and Julie Kerry. Clemons came within two weeks of an execution date in 2009, [48] but eventually won a reversal of his conviction because prosecutors had suppressed evidence supporting Clemons’s claim that the police had coerced his confession by violently beating him. Moss also allegedly counseled police officers to “omit” several observations initially included in the police report.[49] Despite evidence of this egregious misconduct, Joyce fought to uphold the tainted conviction, and then pledged to aggressively re-prosecute Clemons and seek the death penalty once again.[50] A new trial is scheduled to begin in January of next year, unless Kim Gardner pursues a different outcome.[51]”

Read the full report here:

New Report on Rates of Prosecutorial Misconduct