KCBJ article features “war stories” from Todd Graves on “most memorable case”
The Kansas City Business Journal recently featured Partner Todd Graves in one of its legal “War Stories,” which highlight the community’s most challenging cases as well as the people behind them. The article featured what he considers the “most memorable case Todd has ever tried” — his first.
“It was April 1995, just a few months after Graves had been elected prosecutor, and he was handed what appeared to be a suicide case,” the Business Journal reported. “A man told the police that his girlfriend had become distraught before locking herself in her bedroom where she was found dead, holding a gun. The police report confirmed it as a suicide. But following the medical examiner’s report, it became apparent that the gunshot trajectory was incompatible with the stated cause of death. Conversations with witnesses raised further concerns.”
At 29 years old, Graves was “completely untested as a prosecutor” — he was the youngest full time prosecuting attorney in Missouri — which is part of the reason the case stands out.
“I realized that the prosecutor’s office, especially at the state office, there’s no supervisor,” Graves said. “So I guess I learned to make decisions as much as anything, and I learned to trust my own judgment. And you don’t learn those things in law school. Those are things you just either pick up or you don’t. And that’s what’s memorable about it. It isn’t necessarily the trial strategy or the uniqueness of it.
“That’s a big takeaway from my time prosecuting. At the state and with the feds, (thousands of) people went to prison with my signature on their paperwork, and I can count on one hand the evil people,” Graves told the Business Journal. “Most were just complete sociopaths. Others were just good people who did bad things. People make mistakes and they need to pay for those mistakes, but they weren’t evil.
“That really did change my worldview. I think I’m much more forgiving and accepting because I’ve seen a lot. I think I’m better with my kids because of it,” Graves said. “None of us are perfect, and I think that was really driven home. That doesn’t change that there has to be a consequence, but sort of the self-righteous indignation, I don’t have nearly as much of that as I probably had on the front end.”
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