Chicago’s chief prosecutor, a Black woman, was receiving praise on Monday for her office’s role in helping to exonerate 18 people convicted of crimes connected to a corrupt former city cop.
A total of 42 people have now had their convictions thrown out that were linked to Chicago Police Sergeant Ronald Watts., thanks to Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx, who has been instrumental in overturning the dozens of wrongful convictions.
“It is one of the biggest scandals in Chicago Police Department history, and I’m just grateful we have a state’s attorney’s office in place that is taking steps to address the tremendous human toll these officers and the city at large have wrought on our most vulnerable communities,” Joshua Tepfer, an attorney for 12 of the men, said in a statement sent to NewsOne.
Fox won office in 2016 campaigning on a reform platform, according to CBS Chicago. Her aim was to change the county’s reputation as the “wrongful conviction capital of the United States.”
“We must have a criminal justice system that has integrity and credibility. That means that we have to admit when things have gone wrong and actively work to fix it,” Fox said concerning this latest round of cases, according to ABC News.
In 2012, Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed were federally indicted and later pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from an informant. Watts and his team were running a “protection racket” for more than a decade, planting evidence and fabricating charges against Southside residents while facilitating their own drug and gun trade, according to the statement from the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project.
Watts’ activities were not rare. A 2015 U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department revealed widespread corruption. A final report also found reasonable cause to believe that the department “engages in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.”