Rachel Lippmann | KBIA

Rachel Lippmann

Reporter

Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.

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Updated Dec. 11 with oral arguments

The ability of prosecutors in Missouri to undo wrongful convictions they discover is in the hands of a state appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the Eastern District of Missouri heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case of Lamar Johnson. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner asked for a new trial in his case in July, saying her Conviction Integrity Unit found pervasive police and prosecutor misconduct in his 1995 murder conviction.

Two St. Louis police officers whose racist social media posts were exposed by an advocacy group in June are no longer with the department.

Brian Millikan, an attorney for Ronald Hasty and Thomas Mabrey, confirmed Monday the two were fired Nov. 27. He said that decision has been appealed.

A pilot program in courthouses in Madison and Bond counties in Illinois is designed to speed up simple family court cases.

The Third Judicial Circuit received a $5,000 state grant to pay for mediators who can help people without attorneys do the paperwork to make agreements in those cases legally binding. The program started Dec. 1.

The Dutchtown neighborhood, in southeast St. Louis, has seen anti-violence initiatives come and go over the years.

Now it’s one of three neighborhoods selected for a nationally known program called Cure Violence. As its name suggests, Cure Violence treats violent crime such as shootings and homicides as a disease that can be cured with the right intervention.

In Dutchtown, there’s a sense of cautious hope that the latest initiative might make a difference in a neighborhood that’s seen 13 people killed and more than 130 shot this year alone.

St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann on the latest episode of Politically Speaking.

The Democrat represents the city’s 6th Ward. Her district encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Lafayette Square and Fox Park. 

In October, attorneys for St. Louis County fighting a discrimination case filed by a gay police sergeant made the argument that a judge should rule against him because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The legal maneuver prompted an angry response from County Executive Sam Page, who said he was “horrified and surprised that argument was used, and I don’t want to see it used again.”

But outside attorneys hired by the county made that exact argument in a court filing this week.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is backing legislative efforts to make carjacking a state crime, and to lift the requirement that some St. Louis police officers live in the city.

“We are offering two solutions to two problems we know exist,” Schmitt, a Republican, said Tuesday at a news conference in St. Louis. “We need tougher sentencing for carjackings. And we have a police officer shortage. So let’s open up the talent base.”

Federal law enforcement officials say a three-month cooperative push to apprehend violent fugitives resulted in more than 160 arrests in the St. Louis region.

The U.S. Marshals announced the results of the operation Thursday. They say 16 of those arrested were wanted for homicide, and many were connected to violent gangs in the area.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.

Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber’s nearly $20 million jury verdict hit St. Louis County government like a lightning bolt. 

The huge award sparked internal and external scrutiny of one of Missouri’s largest law enforcement agencies about how it treats LGBTQ employees. It’s also prompted a debate about whether Missouri should pass more explicit laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners — a move activists said doesn’t do enough to improve a culture that fails to punish officer misconduct.

The council also approved funding for outside attorneys to help with a legal response to a nearly $20 million verdict against the county for discrimination. And members called on the city of St. Louis to be more transparent in conversations about privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he was surprised by a nearly $20 million verdict against his department for discriminating against a gay police sergeant.

“Without getting too much into a conversation about the verdict, yes, I was surprised by it,” Belmar said Tuesday. “But I would say that we have to take a look at these things as an opportunity to move forward.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appears to have the support of the two nominees to the Board of Police Commissioners — at least for now.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, answered questions Monday from all but one of the County Council members who will vote on their confirmation. That could come Tuesday if background checks are completed in time.

Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, and Jacki Langum, the organization’s advocacy director, talk about the group’s 10th anniversary on the latest edition of Politically Speaking.

ArchCity is celebrating this week with a live taping of its podcast, a celebration of actor Danny Glover as a Racial Justice Champion, and a day-long racial justice roundtable.

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum, Rachel Lippmann and others talk about Missouri and St. Louis politics. 

Here are the topics covered:

 

St. Louis aldermen have failed to act on Mayor Lyda Krewson's nominations to the Board of Freeholders, casting doubt on the city's ability to have a say in a process to revamp the way the region is governed.

A special meeting of the Board of Aldermen scheduled for Wednesday was canceled after Krewson and members of the Black Caucus failed to come to an agreement on the nominees. That means the city has missed a deadline set by the state constitution to approve its freeholders members.

But blowing past that deadline may not actually mean much, thanks to a court ruling from the 1950s.

St. Louis aldermen will try again this year to develop policies that control the use of surveillance technology in the city. 

A committee could vote this week on a measure sponsored by Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, that requires the director of public safety to draft those policies, which the Board of Aldermen would then approve or reject. Any city agency that wanted to use tools like security cameras or license plate readers would have to submit a plan that fit those guidelines.

St. Louis Alderwoman Sarah Martin is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. Martin represents the 11th ward, which includes parts of the Boulevard Heights, Holly Hills, Patch, Mount Pleasant and Carondelet neighborhoods. 

Updated Oct. 22 with further delay

St. Louis aldermen have once again delayed a vote on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s nominees to serve on a board that could rethink governance in the city and St. Louis County.

Members of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee remain at odds with Krewson over the number of Board of Freeholders nominees from north St. Louis. Krewson says four of her nine choices are from historically north side wards; committee members disagree. They took no action on Tuesday, opting to wait instead for another day in an effort to persuade the mayor to name new people.

Missouri’s attorney general and the federal prosecutor in St. Louis say a six-month-old initiative to reduce violent crime by boosting the number of cases prosecuted at the federal level is working.

“As a community, we are having important conversations about what we can do to tackle the crime epidemic,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Tuesday at a news conference. “We all have very important roles to play in that effort. My job is to prosecute those who have broken the law and have harmed victims and their families.”

The nine people nominated by Mayor Lyda Krewson to serve on a committee looking into consolidating government in St. Louis and St. Louis County will have to wait a bit longer to know if they cleared the first hurdle.

A committee of the Board of Aldermen on Monday spent five hours hearing testimony from the nominees to the Board of Freeholders, but did not take a vote. An exact reason for the delay wasn’t given. 

Ten children have been shot to death in St. Louis since Memorial Day weekend — more than the total number of young people killed by guns in all of 2018.

The cause of the increase has vexed police, researchers and those who work with victims of violence.

Updated Oct. 3 with approval by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment

Funding to start a nationally recognized anti-violence program in St. Louis has cleared another hurdle. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which oversees the city’s budget, approved spending $5 million of the city’s $23 million surplus on Cure Violence. The vote on Thursday comes less than a week after the Board of Aldermen gave unanimous first-round approval to the money, and sets up a final board vote on Friday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has pledged money and manpower to help St. Louis and St. Louis County address an increase in violent crime.

“We know that we have a serious problem with violent crime that must be addressed,” Parson said Thursday at a news conference in St. Louis. “As your governor, and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is one of the utmost importance to my administration.”

The announcement came after a day of meetings with local political, religious and law enforcement leaders.

A St. Louis police officer has sued the city over the way he was treated while he was undercover during protests against police brutality.

Luther Hall was beaten by fellow police officers during a mass arrest of protesters in September 2017. He suffered serious injuries and has not returned to work. 

The president of the NAACP in the city of St. Louis says former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger may have violated federal law relating to minority contracting.

Adolphus Pruitt made the allegations at a news conference on Tuesday. He says he started looking into whether the county was following the rules after reading a letter the St. Louis County Council submitted to federal prosecutors as part of Stenger’s sentencing.

St. Louis aldermen will spend at least part of Friday debating whether to ask voters to repeal the requirement that most city employees live in the city.

The bill narrowly received first-round approval in July. Its sponsor, Alderwoman Carol Howard, D-14th Ward, delayed a final vote until after the break, to give her time to secure more support.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. Sept. 6 with comments from court hearing

William Miller, the chief of staff to disgraced former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, was sentenced Friday to 15 months behind bars for working to make sure that a campaign donor to Stenger got a lobbying contract.

Miller pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery, a felony, in May. The sentence handed down Friday by U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines for the crime and in line with what prosecutors had sought. The maximum under the guidelines was 21 months. Miller’s attorneys wanted probation.

Missouri has received another $21 million in federal funding to repair the state’s bridges.

Missouri was one of just 25 states eligible for the grants, which come from the Competitive Highway Bridge Program. The money will allow the Missouri Department of Transportation to replace 40 bridges on state highways north of Interstate 70.

A St. Louis judge has ruled that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not have the authority to ask for a new trial in the case of a man Gardner says was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Judge Elizabeth Hogan’s opinion, issued Friday, also says Gardner’s request in the case of Lamar Johnson was filed well beyond deadlines outlined in court rules and decisions. 

A spokeswoman said Gardner will appeal the ruling, and had no further comment.

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