The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District on Oct. 17 unanimously upheld the felony convictions of the only Kansas City police officer ever found guilty of killing a Black person. In a detailed 42-page ruling, the three-judge panel said the now-former officer failed to offer any evidence his conviction was in error.
The case sparked political controversy this past summer when Kansas City Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker raised concerns that Gov. Mike Parson planned to pardon the officer and Attorney General Andrew Bailey, whose job is to defend criminal convictions on appeal, instead asked the appellate court to reverse the guilty verdicts.
Former KCPD detective Eric DeValkenaere fatally shot Cameron Lamb, a 26-year-old father of three, on Dec. 3, 2019, as Lamb was parking his truck in a garage behind his house. After DeValkenaere waived his right to a jury trial, a Jackson County judge found him guilty of felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. The judge determined DeValkenaere, who was investigating alleged traffic violations, was illegally present on Lamb’s property at the time of the shooting and had no legitimate cause for using deadly force.
Although DeValkenaere, who is white, later claimed Lamb had pulled a gun on his partner, the partner testified at trial that he saw no gun and prosecutors offered evidence the gun was planted after the fact. DeValkenaere remained on the police force until shortly after his 2021 conviction.
DeValkenaere stayed free while his appeal was pending, but his bond was revoked after the court issued its ruling. The Associated Press reported DeValkenaere surrendered at the Platte County Jail later that day and remains incarcerated there as he awaits transfer to a state prison to serve a six-year sentence. However, his attorneys filed a motion on Oct. 18 asking for his bond be reinstated while they appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.
After Baker, a Democrat, went public in June with concerns that Parson, a Republican, might circumvent the appeals process by pardoning DeValkenaere, Parson denied he planned to do so but left open the possibility of issuing one later. According to the AP, a Parson spokesman on Oct. 17 said the governor was “assessing the situation” and no decision on a pardon had been made. The Kansas City Star reported that the city’s Black community leaders were urging the governor to stay out of the case and allow justice to prevail.
Weeks after the initial pardon dustup, Bailey, also a Republican, added to the controversy when his appellate brief argued for DeValkenaere’s convictions to be overturned. Given Bailey’s position, the court allowed Baker’s office to intervene to defend the convictions. The appellate panel, consisting entirely of judges appointed by Parson, made no mention of Bailey’s arguments in its lengthy opinion.