Part 5: Parents find similarities in the deaths of their kids in Madison & Washington Counties, Missouri still fighting.

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In my investigation in the Pink Politic series, “Parents find similarities in the deaths of their kids in Washington & Madison counties, Missouri & want answers.” I found a common theme among law enforcement, prosecutors, and a pathologist involved. I found a broken system with no empathy for the victim’s family and friends left behind.

It is shocking to see mothers who only want answers being disrespected, ignored, and belittled by the very people who are supposed to protect and serve their communities.

Many times people complain of an unjust system punishing and imprisoning innocent people. The flip side is that murderers walk free without investigations, and no accountability exists within police departments and elected court officials.

In all the cases investigated, people who should be considered primary suspects go unquestioned even though they appear to be the prime suspects. Criminals and repeat offenders with every reason to lie and their stories told with obvious discrepancies are accepted without any further investigation to collaborate their stories.

No effort to obtain additional information and police reports with irrelevant and inconclusive information are used as official documents to ensure the case is filed away with no chance of reopening.

In a paper written by Ira P. Robbins at the American University, Washington College of Law titled A DEADLY PAIR: CONFLICTS OF INTEREST BETWEEN DEATH INVESTIGATORS AND PROSECUTORS the flawed system behind death investigations is detailed perfectly.

Robbins highlights many problems with investigations and a broken system in the research.

“There are many examples of overt conflicts of interest in the death investigation field. Overt conflicts of interest are evident and apparent instances of inappropriate influence created by institutional structures and personal biases. When the office that conducts the post-mortem death investigation is the same office that pursues criminal charges against a suspect, the traditionally independent offices often end up with contradictory goals. -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Prosecutors are lawyers just like defense attorneys. They are subject to the same scrutiny, and their conviction rates deem them successful or not. The agenda of a prosecutor is to acquire the best ratio of successful convictions possible. In Robbins’ research, this blatant “conflict of interest” is explained,

“Prosecutors face pressure to maintain a high conviction rate while at the same time attempting to seek justice.” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Watching crime shows such as Law and Order SVU shows a fictional example of the link in departments that Robbins discusses,

“Prosecutors and death investigators may actively work together to achieve a more favorable outcome for the prosecution. These cases reflect situations in which both offices allow competing interests and loyalties to cloud their independent and professional judgment. ” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

The scenes between prosecutors and investigators on Law and Order SVU show the two departments discussing cases and how to effectively gather evidence that will hold up in court to acquire a conviction. This evidence is actively sought by investigators, almost solely controlled by the prosecutor’s opinions and suggestions.

“Allowing a prosecutor to intimidate death investigators and experts without repercussion not only chills what is intended to be an independent and adversarial system but also promotes faulty forensic science. ” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Prosecutorial immunity and discretion only further complicate the situation.

The term ‘prosecutorial discretion’ refers to the fact that under American law, prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute and unreviewable power to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring in cases where the evidence would justify charges.

“Prosecutorial immunity means prosecutors cannot be sued for injuries caused by their official actions during the trial. For instance, a prosecutor cannot be sued for purposely withholding exculpatory evidence, even if that act results in a wrongful conviction.”

Prosecutorial accountability and checks and balances don’t exist, leading to slippery slopes, such as people who are guilty being set free and innocent people being put in prison.

“With a culture of winning at all costs and pursuing convictions with zeal, prosecutors—knowingly or unknowingly—may cross the line into questionable or illegal behavior, creating conflicts of interest. Without meaningful standards or reform, prosecutorial misconduct and questionable practices are rarely challenged.” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

These legal standards produce an unfair system impossible to fight. The mothers of Madison and Washington County can personally attest to the negative consequences of such a system.

“After years of working together and developing a rapport, death investigators begin to view themselves as part of the prosecution team and may develop a pro-prosecution bias, which is contrary to the goals of an independent death investigation system. Without real independence, death investigators will remain under the authority of prosecutorial agencies, subject to administrative and political pressure. ” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Victims’ families are not interested in the politics behind investigations of their dead loved ones. They are left without closure in the deaths of their children, feeling helpless, desperate, and many times financially depleted, forced to utilize all of their available resources to fight for answers on their own.

Even after doing the job prosecutors and investigators get paid for, they can’t find anyone in law enforcement or the courts to listen to them.

Politics and personal agendas should never share space with death investigations. Elections affect every case heard in the months leading up to the election. This dynamic is nothing new. It doesn’t make it right.

“Institutional structures and personal biases allow each office to influence the other and, in turn, blur the lines of duty, responsibility, and independence. Overt conflicts of interest are contrary to all principles of justice and fair process. A feature unique to the coroner system is that some jurisdictions allow officials who already occupy a governmental position also to hold the position of coroner, thus creating an inherent conflict of interest. Pursuant to state statutes, officials such as sheriffs, mayors, prosecutors, and justices of the peace are permitted to hold the office of the coroner simultaneously. -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Such is the case with Sherriff Katy McCutcheon of Madison County, who was appointed a member of the “coroner standards and training commission.”

Thus far, she has publicly proved to be biased “against drug addicts” whether they are clean or actively using, with many people within the community stating they heard her openly share her disinterest in investigating their deaths with a “let the druggies handle the druggies” attitude.

Is it related to the work she’s involved in with the “Missouri Sheriff Methamphetamine Relief Taskforce” or personal opinion? Only Katy knows the answer to that question. Regardless it has no place in death investigations. Her behavior only validates the research of Ira P. Robbins at the American University, Washington College of Law.

“While states have enacted these statutes to promote efficiency, combat a lack of medical expertise, and manage limited resources, conflicts of interest are unavoidable. When the office that conducts the post-mortem death investigation is the same office that pursues criminal charges against a suspect, the traditionally independent offices often end up with contradictory goals.” -Ira P. Robbins, American University, Washington College of Law

Furthermore, the pathologist in Madison and Washington County and most surrounding counties is Dr. Diediker, who works underneath Katy McCutcheon, who is the Sherriff and the “deputy coroner” of Madison County.

Dr. Diediker has found three autopsies he performed this year alone overturned by outside pathologists, whom all agree that his determination of death and toxicology reports are very different than what they found.

Even more disturbing is that the sheriffs of Washington and Madison County refuse to reopen the cases in question, one of the cases being the death of Mikayla Jones. Other cases in question are Jacob Kirkpatrick, Timmy Dees, Derontae Martin, Christian Hildebrandt, & Stoney Camden. This is just the tip of the iceberg unfortunately for the families of the victims.

It is shocking how the mothers of these victims all have similar stories regarding prosecutors and law enforcement. Mothers who only wanted answers were disrespected, ignored, and belittled by the very people who are supposed to protect and serve their communities and the lives of their dead children. Passing judgment before investigating or receiving results of autopsies, some publicly.

Rumors of corruption and collusion with drug dealers and law enforcement fly through these communities because of victim blaming and unprofessionalism condoned for so long that this behavior somehow evolved into the norm.

In reality, it is much easier to accept than the truth, which was described to me by various sources who wish to remain anonymous to be incompetence and a lack of empathy for people suffering from previous and current addiction issues. In addition, the lack of funding and ill-equipped and uneducated public servants entrusted to keep the communities safe continue to contribute to the demise of Missouri counties.

While it is easy to say it doesn’t affect me and look the other way, those words couldn’t be further from the truth. The situation breeds criminals, addiction, child neglect, and future taxpayers who grow up in lives riddled with ignorance, absent parents, and crime.

Children whose role models lead by example. Teaching them to lie, cheat, steal, and even get away with murder. Ineffective and inconsistent government fueled by votes and greed affects communities, making them dangerous, and theft and poverty gain prevalence bringing down property values. Like a weed, the problem multiplies so quickly you don’t even notice. Until you do, and you realize it is too late because it has affected someone in your own family.

To read more about Pink Politic investigations into the dead and missing unsolved cases of Missouri please go to https://pinkpolitic.com/missouri-missing-unsolved-cases/.

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