Anita Alvarez needs to admit mistake in Dante Servin charging
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Two days after a Cook County judge dismissed all the charges against Dante Servin, the Chicago Police detective who fatally shot Rekia Boyd, her brother was still trying to absorb the blow.
“I kind of figured it out halfway through the trial because of the way the prosecutors were giving us crap,” Martinez Sutton told me.
“We asked for first-degree charges. We asked for second-degree charges and they said no. So we went with what they thought was best,” he said.
When I caught up to Sutton, he and his mother, Angela Helton, were on a flight heading back to Chicago from the March2Justice rally in Washington, D.C.
The nine-day march, organized by the Justice League of NYC to protest police brutality, started in Staten Island and ended at the U.S. Capitol.
Historically, Chicago has been perceived as the hub of activism. But today, residents of other cities have been much more proactive when it comes to confronting police brutality.
For instance, peaceful protests sprang up almost immediately after the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore man who suffered fatal spinal injuries while in police custody.
But Chicago activists have been unable to sustain protests over questionable police shootings.
Here, police brutality is often treated like a lottery rather than a crime.
Last week, the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed it is investigating the police-involved shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014, but that office has declined to confirm or deny any involvement in Boyd’s case.
Meanwhile, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is stubbornly defending her decision to charge Servin with involuntary manslaughter rather than charge him with murder.
But days before a judge stopped the trial, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression — which monitored the Servin trial — hand-delivered a letter to Alvarez that was highly critical of the way her office was handling the prosecution.
“[W]e believe the state’s prosecutors are deliberately trying to engineer a verdict of ‘not guilty’. . . . Perhaps our sophistication does not rise to the level of a trained attorney but as professionals, we cannot discern the subtle nuances in your strategy and believe your offices are failing the family of Rekia Boyd,” according to the letter dated April 16.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office has determined that because the judge issued a “directed finding,” the office has “no legal recourse” to refile the charges or bring any other legal action.
“Had the judge allowed the case to continue and have the defense present its evidence (including the possibility that Servin may have testified) and then issued his finding of not guilty or guilty after all of the evidence was presented in court, we would have had a legal option to appeal,” said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Alvarez.
Still, Alvarez has to take responsibility for this botched prosecution by acknowledging her mistake.
Her flawed strategy allowed Servin to get off on a technicality, and robbed Boyd’s family of justice.
Additionally, Alvarez also missed an opportunity to send the message that multimillion-dollar settlements will no longer insulate brutal police officers.
The sweeping reparations the city approved for police torture victims may help atone for the past.
But the unjustified police-involved shooting of Rekia Boyd is our present.
That Servin escaped punishment — and our mayor, police chief and aldermen aren’t outraged — doesn’t bode well for our future.