In a surprise move in court Thursday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez filed a motion to recuse herself and her aides from the prosecution of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Alvarez requested that a special prosecutor be appointed to take her place in the case.
After the hearing Alvarez said in a press release, “My primary goal in bringing a charge of First Degree Murder in this case is and always has been about seeking justice for Laquan McDonald. Today I believe I am fulfilling this obligation by requesting that the court turn the case over to a special prosecutor.”
“While it has not been an easy decision, I believe that it is the right one because it will help to avoid unnecessary legal delays and provide continuity in the handling of this very important and complicated case,” Alvarez said. “It would also ensure that one designated prosecutor will handle this case as it proceeds to trial.
Alvarez goes on to say that there is “no legal conflict of interest that would prevent the State’s Attorney’s Office from continuing the prosecution of this case;” however, she says, “I believe that the results of the recent election and the impending transition of this office make this the best and most responsible decision.
Many critics of Alvarez would disagree that there was no conflict of interest, and have alleged that the state’s attorney’s strong ties to the Chicago police union have indeed jeopardized Alvarez’s ability to find justice for Laquan McDonald. Additionally, hey accuse Alvarez of failing to prosecute police officers in similar cases during her two terms in office. To these critics, a coalition the Chicago Tribune describes as around 25 different community groups, prominent attorneys, and members of the McDonald family, Alvarez’s motion to recuse herself is a clear victory.
Kim Foxx, the candidate for state’s attorney who squashed Alvarez’s attempt at being reelected this year when she won the Democratic primary for the position in March, released a statement to say that she believed “this is clearly the appropriate decision in this case.” Foxx does not appear to face a Republican adversary for the general election and is expected to replace Alvarez as Cook County state’s attorney.
Before the Democratic primary, a motion was filed by Alvarez’s critics to appoint a special prosecutor in her place. It appears the state’s attorney has given into their pressure after failing to win the primary election.
It is up to Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan to approve Alvarez’s motion to recuse herself. Gaughan is expected to inform the court of his decision on June 2.