Tuesday, April 21, 2015

empower next-of-kin to appoint special prosecutors when police kill

Yesterday Cook County Judge Dennis Porter issued a directed verdict that the Cook County States Attorney failed to present enough evidence to justify the charges against Chicago Police Department detective Dante Servin for killing Rekia Boyd. See Chicago Reporter (Adeshina Emmanuel).

As has been noted by numerous people, it's difficult for a county prosecutor to work with the police on many cases and then to prosecute a police officer in other cases. This is especially true in cases where cops kill a person from a marginalized group, eg African-American, mentally ill, etc.

To make things easier for county prosecutors, there should be a system of appointing special prosecutors in cases where police kill (or rape or torture) people. This would include (but not be limited to): shootings, police chases, vehicular homicides, etc.

How would these special prosecutors be chosen?

The victim's next-of-kin should be able to choose the attorney to do the prosecution with the help of competent counsel.

The next of kin should be able to get three people (in most cases attorneys) to assist in selecting the special prosecutor.

The next-of-kin could request assistance from any three of the following:
  • Illinois Attorney General
  • States Attorney
  • bar associations
  • law firms
  • law schools
  • Governor
  • President of the County Board
  • Illinois Supreme Court
  • Appeals Court
  • District Court

The three assistants would assist the family in identifying an appropriate special prosecutor (to be paid from the county states attorney budget).

There may be some objections that this process would cost more money than allowing the states attorney to handle (mishandle) the cases.

This seems like a red herring. Taxpayers already pay huge amounts of money for police misconduct. In the long run, it's likely cheaper to prosecute police misconduct than to pay settlement after settlement for repeat offenders.

The other objection might be that the special prosecutors are too aggressive in prosecuting police officers. News flash: prosecutors are supposed to be aggressive in prosecuting homicides (rape & torture too!).

The objection that special prosecutors will be too aggressive contains the assumption that prosecutors are supposed to "take a dive" when prosecuting cops. Fuck that.

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