By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
A report released this week accuses Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez of conducting a shoddy investigation into the March 2012 shooting of Rekia Boyd, who was shot in the head and killed by off-duty Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin.
A separate petition signed by Congressman Danny Davis (7th), along with Civil Rights and community leaders, is also calling for an independent prosecutor in the Laquan McDonald shooting case.
The petition filed Feb. 16 in Cook County Circuit Court accuses Alvarez of not being able to do her job in prosecuting police officers because of a conflict of interest. The petition claims there was police misconduct in the McDonald case.
“Anita Alvarez is disqualified from representing the people in connection with the prosecution of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke as well as any ongoing or future investigation and prosecution of any Chicago Police officers, who participated in the falsification of reports; destruction of evidence; manipulation and coercion of witnesses; and other possible misconduct in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald,” the petition began. “The video shows Mr. McDonald being shot as he walks away from police officers and then shot again and again as he lies motionless on the ground. Although the State’s Attorney had access to the video from day one of her investigation, she allowed over 400 days to pass before initiating the murder charges.”
Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as the 17-year-old walked away from police in October 2014. A judge ruled the videotape released publicly in November 2015. Its release prompted Alvarez to charge Van Dyke, while dozens of vocal protests around the city called for the resignation of Alvarez, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy, who was later fired.
“It didn’t take a year-plus to determine that this officer had acted improperly. If Servin was a private citizen, he would have been charged that night with murder,” said prominent attorneys Locke Bowman and G. Flint Taylor of the Peoples Law Office, which helped file the petition. “A special prosecutor has only been assigned a handful of times in the past 40 years. It takes a tremendous amount of public pressure in order for this to occur,” Taylor added.
Alvarez’s opponent in next month’s election immediately reacted to the petition’s filing. Kim Foxx, who used to work for Alvarez, supports the idea and said Alvarez is no longer fit to be in office.
“Anita Alvarez has again proven that she puts the powerful and connected above everyday Cook County residents,” said Foxx. “As State’s Attorney, I will deliver swift, deliberate and transparent justice, regardless of who committed the crime. I have also called for an independent prosecutor to investigate all police-involved shootings because an inherent conflict of interest exists whenever the State’s Attorney must prosecute a police-involved shooting due to the necessarily close relationship between the police and the prosecutor’s office. This is a necessary first step in rebuilding faith with the community.”
Bowman said the root of the problem in prosecuting cops lies in the political power of the union. He said politicians who go against the Fraternal Order of Police do so at risk of their own peril. But, he believes it is something that must be done in the interest of public safety and justice.
“Anita Alvarez has cast her lot with the Fraternal Order of Police, and that political alliance is interfering with her ability to act independently,” said Bowman at a downtown press conference on Tuesday. “What is required is proof that there is actually a conflict. That is, a competing interest on the part of the State’s Attorney that actually interferes with her ability to conduct an independent and zealous investigation and prosecution.”
Meanwhile, emails from Alvarez’s office released this week raise even more questions about how the investigation of Servin took place. The emails show conflicting stories from police and witnesses at the scene. Also, no depositions were taken in the case—an unusual move.
Servin was eventually charged with involuntary manslaughter 20 months after the incident. But a Cook County judge dismissed the case, saying Servin should have been charged with first-degree murder. The U.S. Constitution prevents a person from being charged twice with the same crime, so Servin was released.
A spokesperson for the Boyd family said they were not surprised with the new news. They said the family will continue to push to get justice for Rekia even though Servin is free.