COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office hired an assistant prosecuting attorney to assist with a backlog of murder cases. Morley Swingle will be working in a temporary position until a permanent position becomes open.
Swingle previously worked as a prosecutor in Cape Girardeau for 25 years. He then worked as an assistant circuit attorney in St. Louis from 2013 to 2016.
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said he has been working for around five years to recruit Swingle to come to Boone County.
The Boone County Commission approved a salary for the temporary position because the office did not an open position.
"When Morley gets here on Feb. 3, we're going to have 16 prosecutors. Normally we have 15," Knight said. "The county will be paying for this additional prosecutor until someone leaves the office."
Knight said each year about two or three prosecutors leave the office.
The county commission approved $80,000 for Swingle's salary.
Knight said the cost was reasonable, and several prosecutors have left for higher-paying jobs.
"Let's just face it, the criminal justice system that we have here in the United States, it's expensive. Prosecutors in my office work very hard," Knight said. "I've already said publicly that I would like to see our prosecutors make, on average, per prosecutor about $10,000 more than they're making right now."
Knight said he feels Swingle's experience will raise morale in the office and could help the team work on the 29 pending homicide cases within the county.
"There are plenty of murder cases to go around for our prosecutors, and so, you know, any help we can get is going to be great, but to have somebody like Morley Swingle come in here, a prosecutor with his stature, a real heavyweight, that's going to be a big deal for our office," Knight said.
Swingle said he has prosecuted 107 murder trials during his career, including one in Boone County.
"It seems like Boone County's had the same problem that's been nationwide of a higher homicide rate, and so that's something I hope to help deal with and to show the public that we'll get justice for the people who have lost loved ones," Swingle said.
Knight said the 12 deadly shootings in 2019 added to the workload, and the office had the highest number of pending murder cases at 30 than it had ever had.
"It was never a matter I didn't think of prosecutors being able to handle it, it's just it's a stressful situation when we have that many cases because it's not just the assistant prosecutors who are handling cases, but it's also the support staff that we have in the office, and the investigators, and the victim advocates, and things like that," Knight said.
He said murder cases are typically the most complex and well-investigated cases and require the most time to prepare.
Knight said Swingle will also serve as an asset to train within the office. Swingle said they had already discussed the importance of training.
"Well, you really want, when you have a loved one who's been murdered or has been the victim of any sort of crime, you really want the prosecutor who's going to court representing your interest to be as well trained as possible and to be a person who knows the law as well or better than anyone else in the bar group," Swingle said.