Letter to the Editor

Your view: Lawless murder investigation

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The recent articles in the Southeast Missourian regarding the Angela Mischelle Lawless homicide contain facts that are both inaccurate and detrimental to the investigation of this case. The investigation is ongoing and includes additional information outside of the evidence available in 2016. Grand jury proceedings are to remain confidential pursuant to Chapter 540 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. Every grand juror and witness appearing before a grand jury takes such an oath. Each person subject to the oath is not to divulge what occurs within the process. A violation of that oath is a crime in Missouri. The safeguards of the grand jury oaths protect the witnesses who testify from abuse and maltreatment. The oaths also protect suspects who may be investigated for criminal charges from misrepresented or false allegations of criminal behavior when an indictment is not returned.

The two main sources in the articles that provided information to the Southeast Missourian have motives that are political in nature, embedded with a personal vendetta, or both. The actions of the sources and the resulting story listing witnesses and the witnesses’ possible testimony is improper prior to a trial. This type of coverage disrespects the victims, places witnesses in danger, and thwarts other witnesses who might come forward to provide evidence.

Missouri Bar rule 4-3.6 states the following regarding pre-trial publicity:

A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing and adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

This rule applies to prosecutors through Missouri Bar Rule 4-3.8. The concept of not making extrajudicial statements that would prejudice a suspect or witness in a criminal case also applies to professionals in the field of law enforcement. Mr. Rick Walter had been advised by this office regarding the proper scope of his extrajudicial statements as Sheriff. He regularly failed to comply with this practice. Please note the “48 Hours” documentary, multiple interviews, these articles and reporters appearing without identification at the exhumation of Ms. Lawless in violation of the court’s gag order that was intended to support family privacy in 2013.

The extra-judicial comments in the articles do nothing positive in furthering the investigation process. The comments do not help the family cope with the loss. The coverage does not serve justice. The articles were merely self-serving. In fact, witnesses have reported fear for continuing to cooperate with the investigation because of this recent publication.

I specifically asked the reporter not to publish this series of articles for the sake of the family, the security of the witnesses and the negative effect that the series will have on any trial in the future. This series of articles will be defense counsel’s Exhibit A in support of any motion to move future trial to the western side of Missouri to impanel a fair and impartial jury.

This series of articles should be an example to journalists and law enforcement officers across the nation of precisely what not to do in the pursuit of truth if truly tempered with Grace.

The Scott County Sheriff’s Office and the Scott County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to actively investigate this unsolved homicide until justice is achieved.

— Paul Boyd, Scott County Prosecuting Attorney