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St. Louis Circuit Attorney Joyce opts against seeking re-election

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

After months of mulling, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has made her decision.  She’s not going to run for a fifth term next year.

Joyce said in an exclusive interview that the problem isn’t her job. She still loves it. “Anyone who knows me knows I love the circuit attorney’s office,” Joyce said.

But she also wants to enjoy her personal life. And after 16 years as the city’s longest-serving circuit attorney, Joyce said it will be time to do something else.

She’ll be 54 when this last term is done. Her parents each died of cancer at age 57.

“I watched my parents carefully save and put off doing all the things they wanted to do,’’ Joyce said. “And that day never came for them.”

She wants that day to come for her and her husband, Kevin Corcoran, who she married eight years ago. Corcoran is a retired Air Force colonel and a lawyer with the federal government. A widower, he never got to travel much because he spent years raising five children by himself.

When Joyce leaves office, she hopes that will change. “My husband and I bought a motor home. We actually plan to spend time traveling the United States.”

“Sixteen years is a long time to be in this position and I have to think about some other factors in my life other than my desire to be a prosecutor in the city of St. Louis,” Joyce said. “My husband and I have talked about spending some time traveling together for some time now.”

Joyce said she already has decided to endorse a candidate to be her successor: lead homicide prosecutor Mary Pat Carl.

Carl is launching her campaign Thursday, and highlighting her support from Joyce.

Will focus 'like laser beam’ on gun violence

In the meantime, opting not to run for re-election also will free up Joyce for another task. “I’m here for the next 18 months and my primary focus, like a laser beam, is going to be trying to stem the gun violence in the city of St. Louis,” she said.

“I don’t want to think about anything else,’’ Joyce continued. “I have reorganized the whole office around the mission.”

Joyce has been outspoken for some time about gun violence, which she believes is devastating to the city and to its residents. “St. Louis is a beautiful city with wonderful people, and I don’t like what I’m seeing,’’ she said.

Joyce grew up in St. Louis, the daughter of Jack and Nellene Joyce, who each served tenures as aldermen in the 23rd Ward. She graduated from Bishop DuBourg High School in south St. Louis and obtained her law degree from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1987.

After a stint with a private law firm, Joyce joined the circuit attorney’s office in 1994. And she says she’s never regretted it.

She was first elected circuit attorney in 2000. Among other things, Joyce says she’s proud of her decision to reopen 1,400 old criminal cases. Using modern technology, such as DNA testing, Joyce says her staff was able to confirm some convictions.

“We did have a couple cases where someone was exonerated,’’ she said.

Joyce also cites her efforts to do more community outreach and be more accessible. She’s become somewhat famous for her embrace of Twitter and notes that more elected prosecutors around the country have followed suit.

Social media, she said, is a way “to speak directly with the public’’ without relying solely on news outlets.

For now, Joyce plans to focus solely on her office and her quest to reduce gun violence.

But by 2017, she and her husband plan to hit the road. Their preferred destinations include national parks, and Florida, home to some of their grandchildren.

St. Louis, Joyce added, will still be home.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.