Protesters in Kansas City turn their focus toward prosecutors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group that believes the community needs to reform the way prosecutors work held a protest outside the Jackson County courthouse Wednesday, June 10.

This is different from protests in the last two weeks that have sought to change police.
KC Freedom Project believes prosecutors are just as much to blame as police, saying some ignore evidence that would exonerate minorities of criminal charges.

The protesters believe that too often, prosecutors protect police officers who use what others believe to be excessive force.

Those gathered claimed that conviction integrity units, which are supposed to review cases for prosecutor misconduct, have been ineffective, rarely setting the innocent free.

Reginald Griffin said he spent 31 years behind bars in St. Louis for a capital murder that he didn’t commit. His family spent tens of thousands of dollars on attorney fees before finally getting his conviction overturned.

“I don’t think they are being fair right now,” Griffin said. “Because there are a lot of innocent people in jail. And you know people don’t have the type of money it takes to fight these cases, so you become a statistic. I’m here to say the prosecutors need to be responsible for their wrongdoing just like anybody else.”

Similar to the Black Lives Matter protesters, this group also wants investigations into police misconduct. They said police shootings should be reviewed by a board that does not consist of law enforcement or prosecutors.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker sent FOX4 a statement on June 10, including the following:

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office wholeheartedly supports citizens of Jackson County making their voices heard. And we are happy to discuss any concerns with them.

Several members of the prosecutor’s office have already met with Latahra Smith, organizer of today’s rally outside the Jackson County Courthouse, regarding the Keith Carnes case and the conviction review unit in our office.

Our office established a conviction review unit in 2017 and has reviewed numerous applications. No case has yet to result in the overturning of a conviction. The Prosecutor’s Office does not have the authority to act on its own regarding excessive sentences; however, we have joined with incarcerated individuals in writing letters of support to the Missouri Governor. We have been successful in one former Governor releasing an incarcerated individual due to serving most of an excessive prison term.

We did ask the governor to release one defendant who was sentenced to an excessive prison term. And the governor acted on that request, releasing the defendant.

Jean Peters Baker – Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office

See the full statement on the Jackson County Prosecutor’s website.

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