Eric Zahnd is the Prosecuting Attorney of Platte County, Missouri, which is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. First elected in 2002, he is the longest-serving prosecutor in Platte County history. He also has the longest tenure of any elected prosecutor currently serving the Kansas City metro. He leads an office of 25, including thirteen attorneys. The office handles thousands of cases each year, ranging from traffic offenses to first degree murder.
Mr. Zahnd has personally convicted dozens of criminals in Platte County for murder, rape, robbery, assault, and other violent felonies, including the only quadruple murder in modern Platte County history. He has also served as special prosecutor in a northwest Missouri murder-for-hire scheme, convicting all four men involved. The Kansas City Star says Mr. Zahnd’s office has brandished a protect-the-citizens-first attitude that local lawbreakers have grown to fear. The Platte County Landmark has commented that Mr. Zahnd passionately presents an extremely impressive case to a jury. At the same time, Mr. Zahnd is a strong supporter of diversion programs and treatment courts for nonviolent offenders. His office operates Platte CARES (Community Alternative with Restorative and Educational Services) and drug, DWI, mental health, and veterans’ courts programs.
Mr. Zahnd has made it a priority to vigorously prosecute crimes against children. Under Mr. Zahnd’s and the Platte County Sheriff‘s leadership, Platte County’s Cyber Crimes Unit became one of the first in Missouri to hunt down and prosecute Internet predators. Mr. Zahnd has been recognized on national television for his work to protect children on the Web, and a local TV station has called him “a leader in the fight against Internet predators.” In 2005, Mr. Zahnd’s work with the community to combat teen drinking was recognized in the White House’s National Drug Control Strategy Annual Report.
Mr. Zahnd has also worked to improve Missouri’s criminal laws. In 2006, he successfully pushed the legislature to pass Jessica’s Law to put child rapists in prison for life and enact mandatory sentences for Internet predators. At the bill signing ceremony, Missouri’s Governor called Mr. Zahnd “a leader in law enforcement.” Mr. Zahnd wrote a Missouri constitutional amendment to allow juries to know about prior criminal acts of repeat child sex offenders, and he chaired the successful effort to pass that amendment in 2014. In 2005 and again in 2010, he helped write laws to increase penalties against repeat drunk drivers. And in 2009, he wrote the law requiring police to record interrogations of people suspected of committing dangerous felonies.
Mr. Zahnd was recognized as Missouri’s Prosecutor of the Year in 2014 for his efforts to establish best practices for Missouri prosecutors, and he has led national discussions on that topic. He is one of only two Missouri prosecutors selected in the inaugural class of “Super Lawyers,” an honor given to the top attorneys in Missouri and Kansas. In 2007, he was selected as an “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Missouri Lawyers Weekly. He was also named one of Ingram’s magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2004, recognizing him as one of the most influential business, government, and community leaders in Kansas City.
Mr. Zahnd is a board member and past President of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National District Attorneys Association, where he serves as a member of the executive committee, investment committee, and co-chaired the association’s work on marijuana policy. He has also served as chair of the Missouri Humanities Council and as a member of the executive committee of the William Jewell College Alumni Board of Governors. Prior to his election as prosecuting attorney, he was a member of the Tri-County Domestic Violence Board, and he has chaired an annual fundraising dinner for a local domestic violence and child protection center. He was a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention and is a past President of the Missouri Association of Republicans.
Mr. Zahnd practiced at Bryan Cave LLP, Missouri’s largest law firm, prior to becoming prosecuting attorney. He also worked in the Missouri Attorney General’s office and served as a staff assistant to the Missouri Governor’s Commission on Crime.
Mr. Zahnd graduated with honors from Duke Law School. While at Duke, he was editor of a law journal and earned a master’s degree in philosophy. He is the author of an article on Aristotle’s legal philosophy originally published in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems; the article was republished in the book Aristotle and Modern Law.
Mr. Zahnd graduated summa cum laude from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he studied political science, economics, and philosophy as part of the Oxbridge Honors Program. He was elected president of the college’s student body his senior year, and he studied at Cambridge University in England his entire junior year.
Mr. Zahnd and his wife Tracy have been married for 30 years. The Zahnds have two college-aged sons. Mrs. Zahnd has a master’s degree in education. She teaches at a church-run preschool and previously taught third, fourth, and fifth grades in two public school districts. She has also served as a PTA president, on the executive committee of Northland Habitat for Humanity, on the board of Tri-County Mental Health Services, and as chairwoman of the Platte County Republican Central Committee. The family attends a Baptist church, where Mr. Zahnd is a deacon, taught a youth Bible study class, and served as chair of the Church Council. Mr. Zahnd is a sixth-generation Missourian. He was raised in Andrew County, where he was valedictorian of his high school class.