State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx announced today that her office is changing its approach to handling homicide cases in Chicago to prioritize effective and timely prosecution, and promote continuity and coordination among prosecutors, law enforcement, witnesses, and victims to ensure stronger prosecutions.
A new Homicide and Gang Unit will be responsible for prosecuting homicide cases in Cook County. Under the new unit, homicide cases will be prosecuted “vertically;” handled by an experienced homicide prosecutor from the new unit from investigation through trial and sentencing. Previously, murder cases prosecuted by the CCSAO were handled by several different attorneys, starting with approval of charges by the Felony Review Unit, then moving to the Preliminary Hearings Unit, and only after indictment moving to a felony courtroom for trial.
The Unit will be staffed by homicide prosecutors with at least 10 years of experience who have also previously served in the felony review unit as trial supervisors.
“Following a vertical prosecution model will allow prosecutors greater input and involvement in investigation and charging decisions, and will allow for the devotion of more prosecutor time to the investigation and preparation of murder cases,” said State’s Attorney Foxx. “Addressing violent crime is critical, and this new unit gives these cases top priority through the most efficient and effective model of prosecution.”
“As we work to reduce gun violence in Chicago, State's Attorney Foxx has been a formidable partner in our efforts to develop effective law enforcement and prosecutorial strategies to combat crime and target repeat offenders," said Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "This new vertical prosecution model will significantly improve our ability to present the strongest cases at trial and build a culture of trust and continuity between police detectives and prosecutors which will ultimately make our communities safer and stronger.”
The use of a vertical prosecution model was also praised by victim advocates, who emphasized the importance of continuity for the families of homicide victims. "Because we provide criminal justice advocacy for the families of homicide victims, we see that when a victim's family goes to court over the homicide of a loved one, emotionally it is like returning to 'ground zero.' Having a single attorney to talk with, rather than a succession of strangers, will be a great relief to a family under tremendous stress," said Susan Johnson, Executive Director of Chicago Survivors.