St. Louis’s chief prosecutor, Jennifer Joyce, is being accused of racial bias in the handling of two cases in which children were left in vehicles on hot summer days, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A black day care director was charged with negligently leaving a toddler in a van (no one was hurt), but white parents were not charged when their baby died after being left in a sweltering car about two weeks later.
Joyce and police denied prejudice. The day care director’s attorney says she was treated unfairly when she was held for eight hours in jail. Joyce said the difference between the cases is that the director knew the child had been aboard the van, but miscommunication between the parents in the other case made it impossible to prove that either parent knew their child was left in the car. Law Prof. Susan McGraugh of St. Louis University said, “She would have to prove that the parents’ conduct was such a gross deviation from what another person would do. It’s an experience that a lot of people can relate to, especially parents of young children. And those are the people who would be sitting on the jury.”