Kim Foxx’s Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has responded to recent staff resignations, including one by a 25-year veteran prosecutor who says he has “zero confidence” in her leadership.
Since taking over the office from her predecessor Anita Alvarez, Foxx’s office has been rocked by resignations and allegations of favoritism as her dwindling staff of prosecutors causes criminal and post-conviction cases to drag on in criminal court.
While Foxx’s office has had over 100 wrongful conviction cases thrown out, many more remain. According to the National Registry of Exonerations maintained by the University of Michigan, Illinois leads the nation in the number of wrongful convictions overturned since 1989, with 467. Most of those convictions are from Cook County.
The ongoing resignations paint a picture of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in chaos.
The latest resignation is from Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy, who wrote a blistering letter of resignation that has made headlines and television newscasts.
Murphy on July 29 sent an email titled “Good Bye” to dozens of prosecutors. It reads “This administration routinely claims that they have shifted their focus from prosecuting low level crimes so that they can focus their resources on fighting violent crime and drivers of violence. This is simply not true.
“If this administration was truly concerned with effectively fighting violent crime, then they would fully staff those courtrooms and units. Not create more useless policy positions on the executive staff at the expense of hiring more (assistant state’s attorneys) who can work in the trenches.”
“I wish I could stay. I would love to continue to fight for the victims of crime and to continue to stand with each of you, especially in the face of the overwhelming crime that is crippling our communities,” Murphy wrote.
“However, I can no longer work for this administration. I have zero confidence in their leadership.”
He later added: “This administration is more concerned with political narratives and agendas than with victims and prosecuting violent crime. That is why I can’t stay any longer.”
Foxx’s office responded late Tuesday, August 2, with a statement that reads “We recognize the rigors of this difficult work and the toll that it bears, yet over 11 hundred  employees show up every day to work on the front lines and behind the scenes in a testament of the resiliency and spirit of this office.”
Days after Murphy’s resignation, Ted Lagerwall, another veteran prosecutor, gave notice of his resignation, effective August 1. Lagerwall, a supervisor at the Bridgeview Courthouse, helped prosecutors clear nine unsolved murders in south suburban Harvey.
Foxx’s second term reportedly has been rocked by a growing list of departing high-ranking attorneys.
Roughly one-third of assistant state’s attorney spots have been vacated and refilled from January 2020 to June of this year, according to official figures.
Last month Foxx told officials at a County Board Committee hearing that 235 people including attorneys had resigned from her office just since July of last year. The year before the pandemic began, that figure was 130.
Last month a murder trial was reportedly scheduled to finally start after seven years of pretrial delays. The judge, however, announced from the bench that the lead prosecutor on the case had recently resigned. Another assistant state’s attorney who took over the case had to start over from scratch, forcing the trial to be delayed for an additional three months.
In April 2021, Murphy was placed on leave after Foxx’s office suggested that statements he made in court in the case of the shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago police officer were misleading. However, Murphy was brought back to duty after an internal investigation found that he hadn’t been deliberately loose with the facts.