Yesterday both Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown called on State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to do her job and prosecute the people who were being arrested during violent protests. “We made a lot of arrests during May and June and not many of those cases were prosecuted to the fullest extent,” Sup. Brown said, clearly frustrated. He added, “These looters, these thieves, these criminals they are being emboldened by no consequences in the criminal system. They get released. Many charges get dropped.”
Kim Foxx objected to that characterization of her work yesterday, claiming that the people who were looting and breaking and entering were being prosecuted but that she’d dropped cases involving other, less serious charges. But a front page examination of Foxx’s record by the Chicago Tribune indicates that Foxx’s office drops far more cases than her predecessor in the job. Nearly 30 percent of all felony cases brought to her office are fully dismissed:
During Foxx’s first three years as the county’s top prosecutor, her office dropped all charges against 29.9% of felony defendants, a dramatic increase over her predecessor, the Tribune found. For the last three years of Anita Alvarez’s tenure, the rate was 19.4%…
In an interview, Foxx did not dispute the Tribune’s findings but said her office’s higher rate of dropped felony cases gives an incomplete picture of her commitment to keeping the public safe. She said her office has dismissed cases against low-level, nonviolent offenders so prosecutors can concentrate on crimes of violence…
However, the Tribune found that Foxx’s higher rates of dropped cases included people accused of murder, shooting another person, sex crimes, and attacks on police officers — as well as serious drug offenses that for decades have driven much of Chicago’s street violence.
The Tribune put together this graphic showing how Foxx’s handling of cases compares to her predecessor for various categories of felonies:
As you can see, Foxx’s office drops more cases in almost every category. The fuller list is here and I only see two categories out of 31 listed where she dropped slightly fewer cases. To be clear, these are not cases in which some charges were dropped (which often happens) but cases in which all charges were dropped. All of these people walked.
One of the most dramatic jumps is in non-prosecution is narcotics cases, which make up about 40% of all cases brought to Foxx’s office. Foxx came to office promising to release more people from jail and prosecute fewer minor drug offenses. And that’s clearly true as she’s dropping all charges in the majority of felony narcotics cases (53.8%). But it’s not just people buying weed. The Tribune found that even among the most serious Class X felonies, which are drug offenses such as trafficking and manufacture, Foxx’s office dropped nearly a quarter of these cases compared to about 11 percent under her predecessor.
And here’s the real kicker. Because this data from Foxx’s office removes all names from the cases, we don’t know how many of these people were caught again after being given a pass. So it’s entirely possible some people were arrested, had charges dropped by Foxx’s office and got arrested again for the same thing (and maybe had their charges dropped again). We just don’t know.
Given how selective her office is about the cases she prosecutes, you would think she must have a really high conviction rate. After all, she’s dumping so many cases that she’s presumably only left with the best of them, the ones with the best chance of success in a courtroom. But according to the Tribune that’s not the case. Even excluding narcotics cases, Foxx’s office doesn’t do quite as well as her predecessor when it comes to her conviction rate:
When first told of the Tribune’s finding that Foxx’s office was dropping cases more often, Foxx’s aides suggested the Tribune also look at conviction rates.
When the Tribune did so, the analysis found prosecutors under Alvarez won a higher percentage of felony cases than under Foxx. Even if drug defendants are excluded, Alvarez’s office still had a higher conviction rate, winning 84% of non-narcotics cases to 82% for Foxx.
Foxx’s office selected a subset of 34 out of 80 categories of offenses and produced an analysis that found her office got convictions in 83% of cases compared to 81% for her predecessor. But the Tribune notes her cherry-picked categories didn’t include ” felony burglary, narcotics and child pornography.”
Anyway, keep all of that in mind as you watch Foxx try to spin her way out of the accusations made by the mayor and police superintendent yesterday. She makes it sound like all the serious offenders are still being dealt with but the numbers in that chart above really don’t back her up.