ST. LOUIS – St. Louis' top prosecutor on Wednesday urged a nonprofit group to review court records before posting bail for inmates, days after a man freed from jail was charged with killing his wife soon after his release.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner also asked the Bail Project to contact her office before posting bail for anyone accused of crimes involving victims, including domestic violence. Gardner said in a statement that would allow victims and witnesses to be told about the release.
Prosecutors said Samuel Lee Scott, 54, attacked his wife, Marcia Johnson, at her home on April 9, soon after $5,000 bail was posted to free him from jail. He was awaiting trial for domestic violence.
When a friend found her, Johnson "was unconscious, had a broken eye socket, several broken ribs, and was bruised from head to toe," a probable cause statement said. Johnson died days later at a hospital.
Scott is now charged with first-degree murder and jailed on $1 million bond. A phone message left with his attorney was not immediately returned.
Scott was initially jailed in January on an accusation that he struck Johnson in the face. A probable cause statement said he also threatened that he "might as well finish what (he) started since (she) was going to contact the police."
A misdemeanor domestic assault charge was filed April 5, four days before the St. Louis branch of the Bail Project bailed him out.
"If all of the charging documents were reviewed by the Bail Project, they would have seen the safety concerns of the victim, prosecutors and courts," Gardner said. "This information would have given the Bail Project an appreciation for the level of risk associated in the case."
Bail Project Executive Director Robin Steinberg said in a statement that it's "inexcusable to use Ms. Johnson's memory to stoke fear and undermine the real dialogue that needs to happen here, which is how can we prevent gender-based violence without relying on the very jails that break people and perpetuate harm, violence and poverty in families for generations."
Gardner said she shares a desire for criminal justice reform, including reducing the number of people jailed unnecessarily while awaiting trial. But she cited an obligation "to put victims' safety first."