Kim Foxx defends her tenure amid wave of staff losses in State’s Attorney’s Office
Foxx points to national shortage of prosecutors during pandemic era’s “Great Resignation.”
The exodus of attorneys from the prosecutor’s office in recent months is not unique to Cook County, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Tuesday.
Foxx was addressing reporters to announce the office had moved to drop cases against eight men convicted of murder based on evidence tainted by the involvement of former Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara, when she was asked about short-staffing and morale crises pointed out in a resignation letter from a top prosecutor made public last week.
Jim Murphy, who had been a prosecutor more than 20 years and headed the office’s Felony Review Division, described feeling as if the office was engaged in “publicity stunts” and said he was disappointed by Foxx’s support for the wide-ranging criminal justice reforms in the SAFE-T Act passed by the state legislature last year.
“This administration is more concerned with political narratives and agendas than with victims and prosecuting violent crime,” Murphy wrote in his resignation letter.
Foxx noted similar staffing shortages in prosecutors’ offices across the U.S., including recent stories of the struggles of district attorneys across New York City, where The New York Times reported DA’s offices in Brooklyn and Manhattan had lost a fifth of their attorneys. Prosecutors in other states have reported similar attrition.
“The reality is we are in the midst of what has been designated the ‘Great Resignation,’ and we have not been spared. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic,” Foxx said.
Asked if frequent announcements from the office that convictions from decades ago will be overturned had taken resources from prosecuting cases amid the rising violence of the past two years, Foxx said the exonerations enhanced public safety by restoring faith in the justice system.
“The notion that we have to somehow separate public safety from righting the wrongs of the past is how we continue to find ourselves in neighborhoods struggling with violence and legitimacy (of) our criminal justice system,” she said. “Righting these wrongs is a method of public safety.”
Foxx said the stress of dealing with a pandemic-related caseload has put extreme pressure on her staff.
“The diligent, hardworking men and women of this office has put this criminal justice system on their back for the course of the last two years during this pandemic so that those cases don’t fall,” Foxx said.
Foxx has long taken heat from critics — most notably Mayor Lori Lightfoot — for reforms to the office that have made it more likely that some defendants accused of violent crime might make bail, and for raising the bar for the office to approve charges. Her handling of the prosecution of actor Jussie Smollett generated national headlines.
Asked about the backlash against her in the public, if not in her office, Foxx again pointed to national trends.
Foxx cited the plight of progressive peers such as Chicago native Chesa Boudin who this spring was recalled by voters in San Francisco midway through his first term in office, and that Republican legislators in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have launched an investigation that could lead to the impeachment of Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis last week suspended the state’s attorney serving the Tampa area, Andrew Warren, after Warren pledged not to prosecute abortion providers.
“The narratives are not original here,” she said.