“We don’t know unless you tell us”
SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (July 27, 2023) – Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx visited the south suburbs on July 20. The purpose of the “Keeping up with Kim” event was to inform residents about the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) and to answer pre-submitted questions.
Stats from the Cook County State’s Attorney Office
According to the Cook County State’s Attorney website, the office is the second-largest prosecutor’s office in the United States and represents the 5.2 million residents of Cook County in criminal prosecutions and civil matters. The published mission of the office is to do justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy, and safe communities.
The 30–40 guests at the event were given four data reports — one for Cook County overall, and separate reports for Dolton, South Holland, and Harvey. Each report had CCSAO statistics from the beginning of the year through July 17.
CCSAO prosecuted 10,865 cases, and in 7,522 of those cases a defendant was determined to be guilty of criminal charges. For Cook County overall, unlawful use of weapons, retail theft, and sex crimes were the top reviewed categories.
For Dolton, South Holland, and Harvey, unlawful use of weapons ranked as the top reviewed category, averaging 25 among the three areas.
For Dolton, the next two top reviewed categories were homicides (6) and armed robbery (4). For South Holland, 4 homicides and 4 thefts were reviewed. Harvey’s top reviewed areas were a category named ‘other offenses’ (7), and possession of stolen motor vehicle (5).
Foxx and her local office representatives answered questions from the audience, some of which had been submitted via the registration form for the event. Others were collected on paper during the event.
Question 1: There is a lot of interest in the updates in terms of the wrongful conviction cases that your office has been working on, as well as the efforts you have had to implement restorative justice when it comes to these cases. Can you discuss with the audience here about those types of cases?
Foxx: “When I came into office, I made reviewing wrongful convictions a top priority.”
Foxx stated that Illinois led the country in vacating wrongful convictions, currently at 253. She mentioned that a majority of those cases came from a corruption scandal of former Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts. She highlighted the Conviction Integrity Unit and Post-Conviction Unit within the office that looks into credible claims of innocence.
Question 2: How can we as a community intervene and engage youth before the Cook County State Attorney’s office has to be involved with the case?
Foxx: “…We believe that the criminal justice system is what the failure is and not the failures of our community to invest in things that we know produce healthy active children.”
Foxx answered this question by recalling her childhood upbringing. She remembered the accountability the community had for raising and protecting children. She urged residents to take the same accountability to bring programming, mental health services, and positive peer support for youth back into the neighborhoods.
The only question related to alleged unethical activities by Tiffany Henyard
Question 3: Can you give us some direction or advice about the unethical activities by both the Dolton mayor and police department?
Foxx: “What I will say is that if you believe that any elected official or any public servant is engaged in criminal conduct, to reach out to your local law enforcement. If you believe that that is not sufficient, we have in our office our Public Corruption Unit and our Special Prosecutions Bureau. Their job is to look at allegations of public corruption. So you can reach out to our office directly. We have investigators within that unit who can sit down with you, and you can tell us what you believe is some of the allegations. So some of that could be mismanagement of funds or diverting of funds. Some of that could be threatening folks. If you believe that people are abusing their positions of authority, you may reach out to our Public Integrity Unit within our Special Prosecutions Bureau. I think it’s really important in these cases — and again I’m not saying…I mean…I’m tryin’ to be real careful. It also requires people showing up to see how money is spent. Right? You gotta show up to the Board meetings when they vote on these projects. When they vote on — it’s right there.”
A supporter in the crowd called out, “Say it again.”
Foxx acknowledged the affirmation and continued: “You gotta show up at these council meetings — look how you all showed up today. We gotta show up at these council meetings and hold folks accountable. They’re accountable to the public. And a lot of times what we’ve seen is that in these cases of public corruption, it’s right under people’s noses. It’s right there. And there are whistleblower protections if you work in the government. If you’ve seen something directly, there are protections that they have for whistleblowers. It requires you to tell us what’s happening. We don’t know unless you tell us.
“But you also have to be vigilant. Go to these meetings. Ask questions. Go to the website. Look at the financials. To be able to help us. Because we won’t know unless you tell us. But you have to be present. The best eyes and ears in these types of cases are average citizens. It is tips from average citizens that have broken a lot of these cases open.”
Following the meeting a member of the CCSAO communications team offered to provide The Lansing Journal with contact information for someone in the Special Prosecutions Unit who would be able to help specifically with purported unethical activities in Dolton and Thornton Township. As of July 27 we have not received that information.
Other questions asked and answered
Question 4: What do you say to victims when their families feel like the bad guy is winning, and true justice for the victim is very distant?
Foxx: “Even when we do get a guilty verdict, even when someone does go to prison for a long time, justice still doesn’t feel delivered because someone has lost a loved one or someone has seen someone who is going to have a pain and trauma the rest of their life….”
Foxx highlighted the Victim Witness Unit, a CCSAO unit that enhances prosecution efforts by delivering high quality services to victims and witnesses in the areas of advocacy and court support.
Question 5: What are you going to do to ensure the substantive policy changes that you have implemented in your office will withstand leadership changes after your exit?
Foxx: “It doesn’t matter who the leader is, the dedication and commitment of the people who do that work will not change.”
Foxx mentioned that though she is leaving the role, the staff who supported her on various initiatives such as bond reform, reduction prosecution of low-level marijuana convictions, reduction of suspending licenses for unpaid parking tickets, and the creation of an open-data portal — those staff will still be doing the work.
Question 6: Do you feel that there is still more work to be done in exonerating wrongfully convicted people, and if so, what is your message to your successor in this regard?
Foxx: “It doesn’t bring me joy that we lead the country in vacating wrongful convictions. That’s not something we should ever take pride in.”
Foxx talked about the history embedded in wrongful convictions and advocated for a state-wide commission to review wrongful convictions, a commission backed by resources and state funding.
Question 7: What are you up to after you exit?
Foxx: “I don’t know. I am committed to serving out my term. I got work to do. If I’m sitting here thinking about my next job, then that means I’m not fully committed to the work I’m here to do now.”
Foxx said she does not have the luxury to think about what’s next for her, but she is committed to being a transformative prosecutor in the remainder of her term.
The event ended with Foxx thanking the audience for their support during her tenure.
Foxx’s term ends in November 2024, and she will not seek re-election.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office can be contacted at: