Author

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas covers civil rights, criminal justice and immigration. She has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation's leading African-American newspaper.

Case dismissed against Black Fayette student arrested in two late-night raids

By: - June 22, 2021

FAYETTE, Mo. — Christopher Turner bowed his head as he waited in the front wooden bench of the Howard County courthouse. His elbows rested on his knees, hands clenched tightly together.  Beside him, his girlfriend placed her hands on her pregnant belly.  Whatever the court decided would shape the course of their futures and that […]

Missouri public defenders set to hire 53 attorneys with extra funds in state budget

By: - June 18, 2021

Mary Fox stood before a room full of mostly law-school grads last week to make her case.  “Public defenders are typically warriors, activists or caretakers, and often some of each of those characteristics,” Fox, the director of the state’s public defender system, told them.  “As warriors, we are the attorneys who are in court every […]

Missouri lawmakers passed a host of reforms aimed at keeping kids out of jail

By: - June 14, 2021

Retired St. Louis Judge Evelyn Baker once sentenced a 16-year-old Black boy to 241 years in prison for two armed robberies.  No one was seriously injured in the robberies, but the boy “didn’t express any remorse,” Baker said, remembering the sentencing hearing.  Now, when she thinks back, Baker deeply regrets the sentence she gave Bobby […]

‘Defund the police’ was designed to provoke a response. In Missouri, it worked

By: and - June 9, 2021

For years after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, activists and community leaders have pushed to “re-envision public safety.”  Inspired in part by the Ferguson Commission, which recommended that cities focus more resources on the root causes of crime, organizers across the state echoed these calls.  But they largely fell on deaf ears. After […]

St. Louis once again set to debate surveillance accountability bill

By: - June 3, 2021

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is one of about a dozen departments nationwide that have a “real time crime center,” or a high-tech surveillance hub. There, police officers can access about 1,100 cameras located throughout the city — some of which have the power to zoom in and identify people’s faces from more than […]

Pending law to correct wrongful convictions could depend on Missouri attorney general

By: - June 1, 2021

If Missouri’s elected prosecutors have evidence that a person has languished in prison for decades wrongfully, they don’t have the power to ask for a new trial. That’s what the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in March, after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed a motion for a new trial for Lamar Johnson.  Johnson has […]

Missouri law firm offers guide for representing yourself in an eviction lawsuit

By: - May 27, 2021

The pandemic has put many families in an unstable housing situation for the first time. Thousands across Missouri are currently facing eviction. And the vast majority of them do not have legal counsel to help them through an often difficult process. Nationwide, as few as 1 percent of tenants have access to an attorney during […]

Advocates fear homeless crisis with federal eviction moratorium on shaky legal ground

By: - May 17, 2021

At least once a day, housing advocate Melissa Pashia speaks to someone who is living in a car.  Once the situation gets to this point, it’s hard to get people back into stable housing, said Pashia, a housing resource specialist for the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.  “Landlords don’t want to rent […]

Missouri Republicans pass bill to counter calls to ‘defund the police’

By: - May 14, 2021

Missouri Republicans have pushed through a bill that would penalize cities that cut police budgets and bolster protections for officers under investigation for misconduct. The House took a final vote on Friday afternoon, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, said the budget piece was a way […]

Missouri Senate approves bill seeking to nullify federal gun laws

By: - May 13, 2021

State and local law enforcement would be prohibited from enforcing certain federal gun laws under legislation approved Thursday night by the Missouri Senate. For more than six hours, Democratic Senators tried to add an amendment to the bill aimed at keeping people convicted of domestic abuse from buying and keeping firearms — but ultimately failed.  […]

Missouri lawmakers close to passing bill targeting protesters, cities that cut police budget

By: - May 13, 2021

This story has been updated since it first published.  A push to crackdown on protesters that block roadways, penalize cities that cut police budgets and bolster protections for officers under investigation for misconduct is on the precipice of clearing the Missouri Legislature — though Senate Democrats vow to fight to kill it.  Sen. Bill Eigel, […]

The Ferguson movement is on the cusp of revolutionizing political power in St. Louis

By: - May 6, 2021

This is part two of a collaboration between The Missouri Independent and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Read part one. Hear the audio version of this story here. The race was too close. Kayla Reed, co-founder and executive director of Action St. Louis, curled over her desk. Her long, dark locs created curtains […]