As a University of Missouri student, Amy Lorenz-Moser witnessed a devastating domestic violence episode where a man came in and “clobbered” a woman who worked at the school cafeteria. From that moment, Lorenz-Moser knew she wanted to become a personal injury lawyer. “I thought that it was an area where I could make a difference.”
The 2000 University of Missouri School of Law graduate was right. Throughout the past 13 years, she has represented countless victims of domestic violence, including helping to set free two women who each served 32 years in prison for killing their abusive partners.
Now a partner at Armstrong Teasdale, Lorenz-Moser provides complex personal injury defense, including product liability and toxic tort defense, as well as pro bono work on behalf of abused women through the Missouri Clemency Coalition. Every day at the law office demands handling a different discipline—from business, finance and engineering to medical issues—as well as trying cases in the courtroom. She thrives on that variety, and most of all, the opportunity to seek justice for the innocent. “When you start law school, you have this dream of getting someone who is unjustly imprisoned set free—that’s what the cool lawyers do,” she explains. “It’s what always got my juices flowing.”
And that’s also why Lorenz-Moser is continuing her work with the Missouri Clemency Coalition more than a decade later. She became involved in the coalition in law school, through the program’s Family Violence Clinic. It was there that Lorenz-Moser began her journey defending Carleen Borden and Vickie Williams, who were each convicted of killing their abusive spouses at a time when Missouri law did not permit admission of domestic violence evidence at murder trials. “They were not a danger to society—they were in bad circumstances—and they weren’t criminals with a criminal record,” Lorenz-Moser recalls. The women spent 32 years in prison before Lorenz-Moser successfully sued the parole board to set them free. “They were the victims, and it was very unjust for them to be there. After 30 years in prison, it’s amazing to see what that does to a person. So being able to get them out—there’s nothing that feels like that. It’s very addictive.”
Since their release, the women have become productive members of the community—holding jobs, reconnecting with their families and helping other domestic violence victims through telling their personal stories at speaking engagements. “They also go to law schools to encourage people to go into domestic violence defense,” Lorenz-Moser adds.
Borden’s story, along with two other domestic violence victims’ journeys, is told through the film, The Perfect Victim, starring Lorenz-Moser and directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh. Late last year at the St. Louis International Film Festival, the documentary received an overwhelmingly positive reaction of compassion and support for abused women, Lorenz-Moser says. “You see the tears and get questions like, How can we help? That really touches my heart. And it has caused people to make a difference.” The barrier in the fight against domestic violence in St. Louis is due to lack of awareness and shelters for abused women, she continues. “There are three times as many shelters for animals,” she notes. “So the best thing you can do is support your local domestic violence shelter financially and with time, as well as support the domestic violence coalition on a state and national level.”
Despite the road blocks, Lorenz-Moser is inspired by the growth in support she has witnessed through the years. “When I first started doing this work in the late '90s, it was considered to be somewhat controversial. Now, it’s getting less controversial all the time. People tell me, You’re doing God’s work.”