Murphy’s first bill is check on Bell’s power


Photo by Erin Achenbach

Wesley Bell is sworn in as the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney by Judge George W. Draper III on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, after defeating former Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch in an historic upset. Bell is the first Black prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County in its history.

Newly elected Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, took office as the legislator for the 94th District Jan. 9, and he didn’t waste any time jumping into St. Louis County politics.

Among his first acts in Jefferson City, Murphy introduced a bill aimed at curbing the powers of prosecutors like new St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, who said on his own second day in office that he wouldn’t issue warrants or bail for D or E felonies.

“He’s made all types of outlandish things about what he’s going to prosecute, what he isn’t going to prosecute,” Murphy said. “Our form of government is the Legislature makes the laws. We now have a prosecutor who is trying to nullify the Legislature — he’s saying I’m going to take this part of the law and I’m not going to enforce it. That to me is absurd.”

Murphy’s House Bill 541 mandates that if police recommend a charge and a prosecutor decides not to prosecute, the police can take the case to the attorney general’s office, which can decide to prosecute on its own if it’s merited.

“We need to send a message to Mr. Bell and any prosecuting attorney who thinks they’re above the law,” Murphy said. “He may say these are frivolous laws that I’m not going to enforce – what if it wasn’t frivolous? What if he said I’m not going to prosecute murderers in St. Louis County? There’s no check on that. This would become the Wild West.”