Author

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas is a multimedia reporter who covers Missouri's cannabis industry. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, including more than a decade as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation’s leading African-American newspaper.

Missouri Republicans push for state to take over control of St. Louis police department

By: - January 25, 2023

Kansas City is the only major city in the country where the city’s elected leaders don’t control the local police department — a state-appointed police board does. Up until 2013, St. Louis was in the same boat.  However, the city gained local control of its police department after a 2012 statewide referendum.  Now 10 years […]

Missouri Supreme Court hears AG’s opposition to prosecutor’s jurisdiction in innocence claim

By: - January 24, 2023

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday from the state’s attorney general opposing yet another local prosecutor’s attempt to argue the innocence of a man convicted of murder. This time the case was for Michael Politte, a man who was charged with murdering his mother in 1999 when he was 15.  In May, former Washington […]

Missouri prosecutors face losing jurisdiction over violent crime cases

By: - January 23, 2023

Republican legislators have made it clear that challenging the authority of St. Louis’ elected prosecutor Kimberly Gardner — a progressive Black Democrat — is a top priority this year.  And they’ll be searching for a way to make that challenge constitutional.  On the first day of the legislative session, Republican state leaders said Missouri could […]

Missouri regulators say they’re close to naming marijuana chief equity officer

By: - January 13, 2023

The constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana in Missouri won voter approval in November but created a schism among social-justice activists over the question of racial and economic equity.  Some believe the new law will empower minority marijuana business owners, while others worry it will cement an already distrusted, inequitable business licensing system in place. Much […]

Missouri marijuana companies can now deduct business expenses on state income taxes

By: - January 10, 2023

Marijuana companies will be able to deduct business expenses on their state taxes for the first time this year, a Missouri Department of Revenue spokeswoman confirmed to The Independent.  Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2018. But under federal law, growing, transporting or selling marijuana remains a crime. Because of this dynamic, marijuana companies […]

St. Louis judge in Lamar Johnson innocence case still reviewing evidence

By: - January 5, 2023

St. Louis Judge David Mason is still reviewing Lamar Johnson’s wrongful conviction case and working toward a decision on whether or not to set aside his 1995 murder conviction, a court spokesman told The Independent Wednesday. “There’s no date set yet to issue his ruling, but he is planning to set a hearing to provide […]

Alan Pratzel urged education and diversion as Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel

By: - December 29, 2022

Most Missourians have never heard of Alan Pratzel or the system he led for 15 years. To lawyers in Missouri, however, Pratzel was often considered the profession’s top cop.  But that’s not how he looked at his role of chief disciplinary counsel, a job focused on making sure the state’s lawyers abided by legal ethics […]

Missouri AG takes outsized role opposing prosecutors in wrongful conviction cases

By: - December 22, 2022

St. Louis Judge David Mason was exasperated — again. “There’s so many documents here,” he said last week to Assistant Missouri Attorney General Miranda Loesch, pointing to the stack of evidence files in front of him.  “You will almost have to be saying that they’re all fake documents in order to get anywhere,” he said, […]

Homicide detective in Lamar Johnson’s case says he had no evidence

By: - December 16, 2022

The homicide detective who led the investigation of the 1994 murder that landed Lamar Johnson in prison told a St. Louis courtroom that he had no evidence connecting Johnson to the murder, echoing what the prosecutor in the case said earlier in the week. Joseph Nickerson, who retired from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department […]

Lamar Johnson takes the stand to argue his innocence of 1994 murder

By: - December 15, 2022

After being imprisoned for nearly 30 years, Lamar Johnson finally got to tell his story to a courtroom on Thursday, when he testified that he didn’t kill his friend Marcus Boyd in 1995. “To this day, I don’t know why people suspect that I killed him,” said Johnson, who had been roommates with Boyd at […]

Former St. Louis prosecutor says Lamar Johnson conviction relied on recanted witness

By: - December 14, 2022

The prosecutor in Lamar Johnson’s 1995 murder trial told a St. Louis courtroom on Wednesday that he would have never brought the case in the first place without the testimony of an eyewitness who has since recanted. “I didn’t have any evidence,” said then-assistant St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dwight Warren.  Wednesday was the third day […]

‘Historic moment’: Lamar Johnson wrongful conviction case goes before a St. Louis judge

By: - December 12, 2022

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has waited more than three years for the chance to argue the innocence of Lamar Johnson, who was convicted of murder in 1995.  She finally got the hearing to set aside Johnson’s murder conviction on Monday, day one of a trial expected to last all week. “This is a […]