If you ever sit in on a news conference or interview with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, she makes a good presentation — professional, unflappable, polished.
And while we are tossing out the compliments, let us add that we credit her interest in criminal justice reform. It is needed.
That said, we have to question whether Foxx understands that the primary purpose of her job is to protect the public from bad guys.
Under her watch, the state’s attorney’s office seems more interested in trying to avoid putting criminals in jail than in prosecuting them.
This, at a time when brazen violent crime seems to be running amok in the county — not just putting people in danger, but stealing the public’s peace of mind too.
The big news last week, of course, was the special prosecutor’s report that blistered the way the state’s attorney’s office handled the Jussie Smollett matter and bluntly called Foxx a liar. While the report found no laws broken, it did find what it called substantial abuses of discretion.
Frankly, even now, after Smollett’s conviction in a case brought by the special prosecutor, it remains a mystery why Foxx and her office had dropped what had seemed like a strong case against him.
In response to the report, the state’s attorney’s office defended its lack of action with a prepared statement that said, “A prosecutor’s discretion is as broad as any in the law, and differences of opinion as to how a case was handled do not signify an abuse of discretion.”
It is true that prosecutors have broad discretion. Increasingly, it seems unfortunate that Foxx does.
The Smollett embarrassment is only the highest-profile example of cavalier judgment that has cost Foxx her credibility and worse, maybe costing her constituents their safety.
Just a week ago, her office agreed to a plea deal that allowed the murderer of 15-year-old Elias Valdez of Glenview to escape even a single day in jail.
Last month, the state’s attorney’s office finally charged a suspect in the September stabbing death in Schaumburg of 18-year-old Manuel Porties Jr. of Elgin. That murder charge was filed only after Porties’ family and the Schaumburg police strongly protested the office’s initial decision against bringing a case.
“It’s a shame we had to fight for justice,” the victim’s father, Manuel Portes Sr. said. “It’s a shame it had to take 1½ months.”
We get that there is a balance in how juvenile offenders should be treated. An emphasis must be placed on prospects for rehabilitation. Prison can conflict with that goal.
But accountability matters too, particularly in avoiding recidivism.
Foxx understands that defendants deserve fair treatment and justice. Does she appreciate that the public and victims of crime do too?