A petition brought forth by attorneys representing the family of Laquan McDonald — the 17-year-old Black teenager shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in October 2014 –is requesting a special prosecutor for the case.
According to NBC Chicago, the petition, filed this week in a Cook County Circuit court, seeks to have Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez removed from the case due to her connection with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
The delayed release of video showing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald as he walked away from police sparked week-long protests calling for the resignation of both Alvarez and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The latest criticism against Alvarez was announced in a press conference Tuesday.
“We make this request because Anita Alvarez cannot discharge her duties to the people because she is so aligned with the Fraternal Order of Police,” said Sheila Bedi, a law professor at Northwestern University Law School and an attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center. “The Cook County justice system regularly, every day, as we speak churns black and brown men through the system, many for minor non-violent offenses. Yet this very system ground to a halt when it came to holding accountable the police officers who were responsible for the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.”
The group of attorneys — featuring Locke Bowman, the director for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Bedi, and G. Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office —claimed Alvarez should not be allowed to prosecute Officer Jason Van Dyke or any other Chicago police officers who “participated in the falsification of reports, the destruction of evidence, the manipulation and coercion of witnesses and other possible misconduct in the aftermath of the fatal shooting.”
In a phone call with the Chicago Sun-Times, FOP President Dean Angelo said he does not have a “relationship with the state’s attorney,” insisting he’s only met her once.
“The State’s Attorney’s Office has spent over a year working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, using the full resources of the most professional and respected investigative agency in the nation to build a meticulous case against Jason Van Dyke,” Alvarez said in a statement Tuesday. “Moreover, that case has already resulted in an indictment, and has been assigned to ASA Risa Lanier and ASA Lynn McCarthy, two highly skilled prosecutors with vast experience prosecuting violent offenders and complex cases.”
“If any party with standing wants to make that request and legal arguments that would merit the appointment of a special state’s attorney, they should do so in a court of law, not a press conference. But it is clear that there is no legal conflict in this case, and prosecution will proceed to hold Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald.”
Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder, has pleaded not guilty.