Missouri Gov Puts The ‘Just Us’ In Justice With Pardons For Gun-Slinging McCloskeys
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that he'd pardoned St. Louis couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who became darlings of the Right last year after they valiantly brandished their guns at harmless protesters walking past their fancy house.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who's Black, had charged the blindingly white McCloskeys with unlawful use of a weapon. This triggered every Dred Scott impulse among Republicans, such as Senator Josh Hawley and the former White House squatter, Donald Trump, who suggested Parson pardon the McCloskeys.
The McCloskeys had pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanors and paid paltry fines. They were also required to surrender the "his and her" rifle and pistol used in the encounter. But their nightmare is now over, thanks to Parson's benevolent use of his pardon power.
Mark McCloskey boasted in a statement yesterday:
As many of you know, Patty and I faced political prosecution for having the audacity to defend our lives and property from an angry mob. Today we are incredibly thankful that Governor Mike Parson righted this wrong and granted us pardons.
Yes, everyone who watches Fox News and tuned in to the 2020 Republican National Convention knows the couple's hard-luck story and distorted version of events, where this “angry mob" was going to tear them apart instead of just point and laugh at the barefoot assholes demonstrating poor firearm training. In the conservative media ecosystem, these protesters are still somehow an "angry mob" while the actual violent mob that attacked the US Capitol were just overly caffeinated tourists.
There was nothing “political" about their prosecution. Gardner charged them with a crime because they'd committed one. And the well-off McCloskeys were fined the equivalent of a long weekend at the D'Monaco Luxury Resort in Missouri. They are
ambulance chasers personal injury lawyers, so they had the resources to fight this in court if they truly believed they were falsely accused. Instead, they just ran around crying legal whiplash. And, hey, it worked!
However, the governor wasn't that interested in righting any true wrongs with his pardons. He reportedly was working through a backlog of clemency requests from people who were actually suffering hardship. We've discussed how Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, refuses to free wrongfully convicted prisoners because they had used up all their appeals. Schmitt has ignored Gardner's petitions for their release. She's the prosecutor who looked at her predecessors' work and determined it was a hot mess of injustice. However, Schmidt and Parson must assume that Gardner is some radical who wants to free innocent Black folks and prosecute guilty white people. It's like she didn't get the memo that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron memorized.
Parson issued 12 pardons yesterday, but he failed to include Kevin Strickland, a 61-year-old Black man who has rotted in jail for more than 40 years. Strickland, who now uses a wheelchair, was convicted of triple homicide in 1979, but he's doing the time without having committed the crime. The key witness, Cynthia Davis, recanted her testimony in 2009, and revealed how she was pressured to identify Strickland as the killer.
"Just pick Strickland out of the lineup and we'll be done, it will all go away, you can go on and you don't have to worry about these guys no more," Cynthia Douglas recalled to Strickland's legal team.
Strickland had a solid alibi. There was no physical evidence linking him to the murder. Strickland's first trial ended in a hung jury, and the prosecutor implied it was a “mistake" to have allowed a Black person on the jury. This was remedied when the all-white jury at his second trial delivered a guilty verdict. They all presumably sleep well at night.
Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker issued a public apology to Strickland in May, which is meaningless without his freedom. Strickland would probably prefer a “fuck you" with a pardon.
"It's hard to imagine how everyone can know someone's innocent and he's still there," said Tricia Rojo Bushnell, director of the Midwest Innocence Project. "At this point, no one with power has done the things to let him out."
Lamar Johnson, 47, was also denied a pardon. He was convicted of murder in 1994, but Gardner's office uncovered proof that the police and prosecutors made up evidence. The detectives even paid the only eyewitness thousands of dollars to falsely identify Johnson. It's probably a rash move to defund the police, but we should at least consider reducing their framing budget.
Strickland and Johnson's dreams of freedom remain deferred, but Parson delivered the McCloskeys shiny pardons, an in-kind donation to Mark McCloskey's Senate campaign. We'll end here with a pointed statement from Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade: "The contrast between the governor's treatment of these cases should offend every Missourian's sense of justice. It also proves the governor doesn't have one."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."