Tag Archives: kim foxx

Connected to Chicago (10-27-2019) Special Guest- Kim Foxx

This week on Connected To Chicago Bill talks with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Fox. The conversation opens up with what she expects to achieve if elected to a 2nd term as State’s Attorney, Reducing violent crime, moving to vacate convictions of marijuana offenders, and The Jussie Smollett case.

In this week’s round table segment, Bill is joined by Ray Long of The Chicago Tribune, Heather Cherone, editor of The Daily Line, and Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times. We find out why the City Club of Chicago is getting frozen out by Governor Pritzker, How is he getting things done with Mayor Lightfoot? Republicans march into an impeachment hearing that was suppose to be private, and Police Chief Eddie Johnson says he will not attend President Trump’s upcoming speech in Chicago.

This week’s Community Spotlight is with John Dempsey.

Mayor Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West plan, which seeks to revitalize impoverished portions of the South and West sides. The program will have various City departments working with corporate partners and philanthropic groups to try and improve living conditions in neighborhoods which Lightfoot says have historically suffered from disinvestment.

A key part of the plan is a $10 million commitment from Chicago’s BMO Harris Bank to support community revitalization.

Kim Foxx planning to revamp Cook County wrongful-conviction unit

(CHICAGO) Aiming to go beyond her predecessor in trying to end Cook County’s reputation as the “wrongful conviction capital of the U.S.,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx tells the Chicago Sun-Times that revamping the way her office reviews such cases is among her top priorities.

Foxx, who ran on a reform platform in her bid to unseat two-term incumbent Anita Alvarez last year, said in a recent interview that reviewing cases is central to restoring public confidence in the criminal justice system.

“When we talk about people not having faith in convictions, it’s not just about the cases we do now,” Foxx said in a recent interview. “It’s (also) the historical perspective of people who have been locked up for crimes they did not commit.”

Cook County has made strides in tackling the problem since 2012, when the CBS television news magazine “60 Minutes” spotlighted wrongful convictions in a segment that embarrassed then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Alvarez then set up a Conviction Integrity Unit to review questionable cases.

Last year, that unit helped exonerate 11 wrongfully convicted people — a county record and the second-highest exoneration total among counties nationwide, according to a report released this month by the National Registry of Exonerations.

Since 2012, the Cook County CIU has played a part in 41 of 45 exonerations, the second-highest tally among the growing number of similar units nationwide.

But Foxx says she is continuing to study ways the unit can improve.

Just days after defeating Alvarez in the Democratic primary last March, Foxx flew to Brooklyn to meet with Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who died of cancer in October before finishing his first term as top prosecutor there. Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit is considered a national model, having had a hand in 28 exonerations over four years — three more than were credited to the Cook County CIU during the same span, despite the fact that Cook County’s criminal caseload has historically been far larger than in Thomas’ jurisdiction.

Foxx is continuing to work with Ronald Sullivan, a Harvard Law School professor who helped with Thompson’s overhaul. Sullivan is working on a report that will help develop guidelines for the revamped Conviction Integrity Unit, including how to staff the office; how to select cases for review, and how to use findings to detect practices that lead to wrongful convictions in the first place.

“What we learned from Brooklyn model . . . was it is all about elevating the work of the unit,” Foxx says, admitting that staffers on the unit are tasked with pointing out the mistakes of their fellow prosecutors.

“It’s a challenging assignment. It’s tough to be the person that goes and has to look and find error,” she says. “It’s a human endeavor; we are susceptible to making mistakes. Not every mistake is a nefarious mistake to do injustice.”

Foxx insists that individual prosecutors are not necessarily resistant to reviews that find fault with their work, especially when confronted with new evidence.

“Police and prosecutors want the same thing. We want people who commit crimes to be locked up,” she says. “If we determine that there’s someone that didn’t do (a given crime), then there’s someone out there who did commit the crime, and they’re still out there.”

Attorneys who have represented clients that have been wrongfully convicted are in Foxx’s corner for now.

A team of lawyers at the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project, for example, recently withdrew a request to have a court-appointed “special master” review hundreds of convictions based on arrests made by Ronald Watts, a Chicago Police sergeant who was convicted of shaking down gang members in the Ida B. Wells housing project.

The reason? Foxx announced her office intends to give the Conviction Integrity Unit the resources to probe the Watts cases.

“These are substantial policy decisions” Foxx is making, says Daniel Owens, who has met with Foxx.

Owens, who has several cases under review by the CIU, says he is cautiously optimistic that Foxx will broaden the type of cases the unit is willing to scrutinize. Under Alvarez, Owens said the CIU would seldom look at a case in which the defendant claimed anything other than complete innocence, and was wary of reviewing cases where there were allegations of misconduct by police or prosecutors.

“I would like to see ‘miscarriage of justice’ used as the standard of review,” Owens says. “If there was bogus witness or a violation of constitutional rights, or a pattern of abuse, will they look at that, not just some notion that the (defendant) is totally, completely, metaphysically innocent?”

According to the National Registry study, none of the exonerations aided by Alvarez’s unit involved misconduct by law enforcement. Only three exonerations during the eight years Alvarez was in office involved cases that were handled by the state’s attorney’s office while Alvarez was in charge.

Nearly 80 percent of the 136 exonerations in Cook County since 1989 have involved allegations of official misconduct ranging from hiding evidence from defense lawyers to false testimony by police officers, according to Barbara O’Brien, a Michigan State University Law School professor and editor of the National Registry of Exonerations.

Foxx: Some nonviolent Cook inmates might now get out of jail free

(CHICAGO) A few dozen inmates who remain locked up in Cook County Jail because they’re too poor to post their relatively low bonds may be out soon under a new program State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced for indigent, nonviolent offenders Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

After the Cook County Sheriff’s Office singled out 50 cases of those who were “languishing” in jail for several months because of their inability to post $1,000 or less, the State’s Attorney and Public Defender’s offices came together to identify those inmates who would be better served outsidejail, Foxx said.

Through “agreed motions” requesting I-bonds, the inmates who qualify would be released on their own recognizance.

Foxx said most of those who qualify for the bond reform initiative are in for drug offenses, property crimes or retail theft.

“One person was in for retail theft and couldn’t pay the $300 they needed to walk. . . . Another person broke into their friend’s house and stole some shoes,” Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times. “An alternative to jail makes sense.”

While awaiting trial outside of jail, those needing treatment for drugs or mental health would be required to get help as part of conditions of their release, the top prosecutor said.

It costs $163 a day to house an inmate, so taxpayers will be saving money through the initiative, Foxx said.

She said inmates who showed a propensity for a possible return to jail, such as those “agitating” victims, would not be considered for the program.

Foxx’s announcement comes in the wake of a state representative proposing that the state do away with cash bail for all people accused of nonviolent crimes — something that already has happened in Washington, D.C.

Working in concert with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, state Rep. Christian Mitchell filed a bill that would allow people charged with nonviolent offenses to be released on their own recognizance until their court hearings.

Judges would continue to have the discretion to order detention or electronic monitoring for people accused of harming others, Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s bill was assigned last month to the House Judiciary Committee, of which he’s a member.

Bail reform is a national issue. Other states also are considering doing away with cash bonds. In November, Dart called for abolishing the system in Illinois. More than 60 percent of people in Cook County Jail can’t afford to pay their bond, according to Mitchell.

Foxx said on Wednesday that she is constantly speaking with public safety stakeholders about bond reform, but she said if she can implement immediate solutions she will continue to do so.

State’s attorney to exam Ronald Watts cases for police misconduct

(CHICAGO) Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has agreed to look into hundreds of convictions involving disgraced former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his underlings.

“The Conviction Integrity Unit is reviewing any cases of incarcerated individuals where Watts was substantively involved,” spokeswoman Tandra Simonton told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday.

Lawyers with the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project on Monday withdrew their petition for a court review of convictions in cases handled by Watts and his team.

The state’s attorney’s involvement means the petition is no longer needed, explained Joshua Tepfer, an attorney with the Exoneration Project. The group last last year asked Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin Jr. to review the cases.

Prosecutors have started working with Exoneration Project lawyers and will be appointing a special master to review the cases, Tepfer said.

Foxx’s cooperation and the possibility of her budgeting more resources was key in the lawyers’  decision to drop the petition, Tepfer said.

Watts, who supervised officers at the Ida B. Wells housing complex on the South Side, was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison in 2013 for ripping off a drug courier who was an FBI informant.

An officer on his team, Kallatt Mohammed, was also convicted and given time for the crime.

Lionel White, who was arrested at Ida B. Wells over 10 years ago, had his drug conviction vacated in December after Tepfer presented evidence that Watts was under investigation for corruption at the time of White’s arrest.

And in March, Ben Baker and his wife, Clarissa Glenn, who claimed they were framed by Watts’ team, had their drug convictions vacated.

Cook County States Attorney Candidate Kim Foxx

Challenger Kim Foxx won the Democratic primary for Cook County state’s attorney Tuesday night over Anita Alvarez. She joined John to talk about her win and what voters can expect from her if she wins the general election in November against Christopher Pfannkuche.