Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez moved to recuse herself from the Laquan McDonald case Thursday. Alvarez asked a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to the case involving the October 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old African American teen Laquan McDonald.
Alvarez, who is set to leave office at the end of the year after losing the primary election to Kim Foxx, has been under fire for months over her handling of the case. Outrage over the fact that it took more than a year for charges to be filed against Officer Jason Van Dyke, which came after the city was forced to release police dashcam video of the shooting by a court order, led to calls for a special prosecutor in the case. While Alvarez denies that her close relationship with the police union would affect her ability to fairly try the case, she is recusing herself to "ensure continuity" in the case's management.
Van Dyke, who is currently on unpaid leave with the police department and working for the Fraternal Order of Police, shot McDonald 16 times, killing the teen. Video of the incident contradicted reports by Van Dyke and fellow officers on the scene, leading to protests, calls for the ouster of Alvarez and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and an eventual probe into Chicago police practices by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan is expected to announce his decision on Alvarez's request on June 2.
UPDATE (4:56 p.m.): In a statement, Foxx called Alvarez's request for a special prosecutor "clearly the appropriate decision in this case." Foxx is a proponent of using independent prosecutors in police-involved shooting cases.
Chicago Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), chair of the city council's Progressive Reform Caucus, also weighed in on the developments:
Anita Alvarez's decision to withdraw and request a special prosecutor in the Van Dyke case is the right one, and an important step toward ensuring that justice is done for the family of Laquan McDonald and all the residents of Chicago's neighborhoods. In December, I introduced a resolution calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor in this case. I will be reaching out to the City Clerk and Rules Committee Chairwoman Michele Harris to let them know I am now withdrawing that resolution.