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THE LONG, TRAGIC COURTHOUSE JOURNEY: Of Dorothy Twala Kee

Revolving door justice at its unjust worst

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/19/13 (Feature)-- More police!  More money!  A special 'public safety tax!"   Bigger Columbia police headquarters.  A much-enlarged Boone County Courthouse. 

In the war on crime, it seems more is better to leaders in Columbia and Boone County.    More of everything, that is, than prison time for repeat offenders who cannot rehabilitate. 

The arrest last week of
Columbia resident Dorothy Twala Mercine Kee for roughly her twenty-eighth offense in 23 years prompted the Heart Beat to republish and update this story from 2008, which also appeared in the Columbia Business Times.   

Kee's story illustrates revolving-door justice at its unfortunate worst.  
Now 43, Kee has spent nearly all her adult life in and out of Boone County's criminal justice system. 

She needs help -- needed it years ago.  But for reasons that are probably a mix of addiction's powerful grip and government's inability to handle the compassionate side of justice, Kee has never received more than a program here, a suspended sentence there, some time in the Big House, and trip after return trip to a little house where a homeless existence awaits.     

Better courts -- or more cops?
 
As any police officer will tell you, effective law enforcement resides not only with the cops, but with the courts.   But for Dorothy Kee, the Boone County Courthouse is a revolving door circus of trial continuations, revoked probations, failures to appear, suspended sentences, and hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.  
 
“We found drugs in her house again,” a Columbia police officer told me, with frustrated resignation. 
 
Man, woman arrested as police seize crack blared a Columbia Daily Tribune headline.  

By this time, Kee was on at least her 24th criminal offense since 1990. 
 
After posting a $5,000 bail bond  ("bonding out") she was released yet again to the ramshackle home she inherited from her parents.   Surrounded by quiet, law-abiding neighbors, the 2-bedroom house sat vacant for over 5 years during her most recent prison stint.   Frozen sewage burst through the cleanout pipe in the front yard; Ameren removed the gas meter;  and a tree grew through a wall.
 
It was the same tree Kee's deceased mother and father, Dorothy and Roy, worried would crack the foundation in 1995, when United Way Day of Caring volunteers cut it down for free.   Dorothy Twala's mom, then 68, was in a wheelchair.  Her father Roy, 63, was blind.    Neighbors remember the Kees as lovely people.  No one knows exactly what took their daughter so far off course. 

Catch and release
 
Casenet—an online summary of Missouri court activity—provides a window on Kee’s life as a de facto ward of the courts, mostly since her parents died.   It's eye-opening and tragic. 
 
Represented by a public defender, Kee often doesn’t show for hearings, instead bouncing from continuance to continuance—a judicial term for changing a trial or hearing date. 
 
When she does appear -- in front of Boone County Judges Frank Conley, Larry Bryson, Gene Hamilton, Gary Oxenhandler, and Deborah Daniels over the years -- Kee hops from suspended sentence to suspended sentence, reprieve after reprieve. 

What jail time she does get has her in and out of a fractured freedom that encourages, not rehabilitation, but self destruction.   Her court dockets look like this:
 
Hearing Continued/Rescheduled
DEFENDANT FAILS TO APPEAR. DEFENDANT REQUESTS A CONTINUANCE FOR NEGOTIATION.  WITHOUT OBJECTION CONTINUANCE IS GRANTED. HEARING ON MAY 21, 2009 IS CANCELLED.  CASE IS CONTINUED TO JUNE 10, 2009.
 
Hearing Continued/Rescheduled
DEFENDANT REQUESTS A CONTINUANCE FOR NEGOTIATION. WITHOUT OBJECTION, CONTINUANCE GRANTED AND CASE IS RESET TO AUGUST 13, 2009.
 
Hearing Continued/Rescheduled
DEFENDANT REQUESTS A CONTINUANCE FOR NEGOTIATION.  WITHOUT OBJECTION, CONTINUANCE IS GRANTED AND CASE IS RESET TO JULY 8, 2009.
 
Hearing Continued/Rescheduled
DEFENDANT REQUESTS A CONTINUANCE FOR NEGOTIATION. CONTINUANCE GRANTED AND CASE TO RESET AUGUST 27, 2009. 
 
Hearing Continued/Rescheduled
DEFENDANT FAILS TO APPEAR, BOND FORFEITURE ORDERED WITH HEARING SET FOR 09-17-09. 
 
Though she's facing her umpteenth felony charge, Kee will undoubtedly be freed again to re-offend.  Meanwhile, Columbia's leaders fuss and fret about rising crime, calling for more and bigger, or laws (like curfews) that restrict the liberties of the law-abiding.  

Instead, they need to realize "criminal justice" is an oxymoron at the revolving door of the Boone County Courthouse and probably many other courthouses besides.    Dorothy Twala Kee has so much company at the revolving door, it's a wonder it revolves at all.  

But it does revolve, so fast that judges release repeat offenders almost as quickly as police catch them. 

 
23 Years in the life of Dorothy Twala Mercine Kee
 
Stealing
6/24/1990
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Incarceration  Jail  (Suspended)
PROBATION ORDERED INSTEAD
Outcome: Probation Revoked
 
Stealing
7/16/1990
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Incarceration Jail (Suspended)
 
Stealing
09/21/1990  Code:  
Disposition:  Guilty Plea - 12/10/1990
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Sentence:  Incarceration Prison 
Length:  3 Years  (Suspended)

Assault 3rd Degree
09/21/1990
Sentence:  Incarceration Jail   (Suspended)
 
Stealing--3rd Offense
12/20/1991  
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Incarceration Prison
Length:  4 Years
Defendant Recommend for Treatment 


Felony Drug Possession 
01/11/1991  
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Prison ncarceration 
Length:  3 Years
SET TO ALSO RUN CONCURRENT W/CASE #90-25550
 
Felony Forgery
06/04/1991  
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Prison Incarceration DOC
Length:  3 Years
CONCURRENTLY WITH SENTENCE PREVIOUSLY IMPOSED IN BOONE COUNTY, MO
 
Felony Drug Distribution Manufacture
Date:  09/15/1998  
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea - 01/04/1999
Sentence:  Prison Incarceration DOC
Length:  7 Years
 
Trespass—1st Degree
4/09/2006
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Fined $100
 
Marijuana Possession
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
4/09/2006
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Fined $200
 
Use Of Drug Paraphernalia
4/29/2006
Arresting Agency:   Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:   Incarceration Jail
Length:  90 Days
EXECUTION OF SENTENCE SUSPENDED AND DEFENDANT PLACED ON UNSUPERVISED PROBATION FOR 2 YEARS.
Outcome:  PROBATION REVOKED AND SENTENCE OF 90 DAYS BOONE COUNTY JAIL ORDERED.
 
Use Of Drug Paraphernalia
10/18/2006
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Incarceration Jail
Length:  120 Days
 
Use Of Drug Paraphernalia
12/09/2006
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Guilty Plea
Sentence:  Incarceration Jail
Length:  120 Days
 
Felony Drug Possession
Date:  05/27/2008  
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition: Grand Jury Indictment
Sentence:  Prison Incarceration, 5 Years (Suspended)
DEFT. INSTEAD PLACED ON 5 YEARS SUPERVISED PROBATION

Misdemeanor Theft/Stealing
Date:  05/27/2008  
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Grand Jury Indictment
 
Felony Possession Of Controlled Substance
09/05/2008
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Not disposed
 
Misdemeanor Possession Of Controlled Substance
12/03/2008
Arresting Agency:  Boone County Sheriff
Disposition:  Not disposed
 
Felony Resisting/Interfering With Arrest
12/03/2008
Arresting Agency:  Boone County Sheriff
Disposition:  Not disposed
 
Failure to maintain financial responsibility, driving without a valid driver’s license
9/29/2009
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Not disposed

First-degree tampering, $4,500 bond
11/2/2010
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Not disposed

Use or possession of drug paraphernalia
12/21/2010
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Not disposed

Fraudulent Use Of A Credit/Debit Device (Value Less Than $500)
03/22/2011
Guilty Plea - 05/17/2011
Sentence:     Incarceration Jail
Sentence Date:     05/17/2011   
Length:     90 Days

Misdemeanor Theft/Stealing (Value Of Property Or Services Is Less Than $500)
Misdemeanor A RSMo: 570.030
03/22/2011    

Tampering With Physical Evidence 
03/22/2011  
Guilty Plea - 05/17/2011
Sentence:     Incarceration Jail 90 Days

Misdemeanor  Theft/Stealing (Value Of Property Or Services Is Less Than $500)
10/19/2012    
Sentence   (Suspended Execution of Sentence)
Sentence:     Incarceration Jail   (Suspended Execution of Sentence)
Sentence Date:     04/19/2013     Start Date:     04/19/2013     Length:     60 Days
60 DAYS BCJ. SES; DEFT PLACED ON 2 YEARS ACS SUPERVISED PROBATION WITH CONDITIONS IN DOCKET ENTRY
Facility Name:     PROBATION     Agency:     ADULT COURT SERVICES
Classification:     SUPERVISED

Felony Stealing, Buying, Receiving, Robbery
07/16/2013    
Arresting Agency:  Columbia Police Department
Disposition:  Not disposed




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