Cook County might see first woman, first Hispanic state’s attorney

Anita Alvarez came out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination for state’s attorney in Cook County Tuesday. Everyone I knew was supporting Larry Suffredin, who came in third but was polling 6 percentage points ahead of the two candidates who beat him – Alvarez and Tom Allen – as of Feb. 3 (though a plurality of those surveyed were undecided).

Having worked on the Medill Innocence Project last quarter, I know Alvarez was hardly a favorite among those we worked with. I’m told she ran ads trumpeting her success in convicting an innocent man. (Edit 2/8/08 9:45 p.m. The man is Patrick Sykes of the Girl X case, who is presumed innocent by the innocence project and has not been exonerated). I wonder how she’ll fare against Republican Tony Peraica in the November general election.

Admittedly, I’m intrigued at the prospect of electing State’s Attorneys. In New Jersey, where I grew up and where my interest in politics budded, the ballots are much, much shorter than they are here. In my town, we vote for school board, town council and mayor. According to the county clerk’s website, there are four elected offices in the county: sheriff, surrogate, county clerk and Board of Chosen Freeholders (which has 10 members). No judges, prosecutors or anything of the sort are elected.

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5 Responses to Cook County might see first woman, first Hispanic state’s attorney

  1. chi60640 says:

    I am quite surprised that a journalism student (at Medill nonetheless!) would toss out the inflammatory assertion that Alvarez “ran ads trumpeting her success in convicting an innocent man” without providing any sort of source or even corroboration. Which ad? Which “innocent” man? Is he innocent because the Medill Innocence Project asserts his innocence, or because he was found “not guilty” after a trial? Was his conviction overturned on appeal?

    It should not have been too difficult to check whether Alvarez in fact ran such an ad, since she only ran two TV commercials (ad nauseam) and both are available for review on her campaign website. I just took 5 minutes to do just that and, shocking enough, she made no such assertion about any “innocent man.”

    At least you disclosed that she was “hardly a favorite” among your peers. That gives me some hope.

  2. laurabethnielsen says:

    I’m adding David’s repsonse down here in itals in the comments part so it is easier to see, and then my own question:

    she ran ads trumpeting her success in convicting an innocent man. (Edit 2/8/08 9:45 p.m. The man is Patrick Sykes of the Girl X case, who is presumed innocent by the innocence project and has not been exonerated).

    Interesting — A lot of that going around in IL — What happens to all these prosecutors who put people on death row incorrectly — I mean, assuming no law breaking or evidence supressing — if everybody follows the rules, but there is an error resulting in a coviction, are there consequences? Should there be?

  3. dspett says:

    My sense is that the whole system is flawed. First, there’s incredible pressure on police to find a suspect, and then the pressure is on the prosecutor to get the conviction. I sense that questioning whether a mistake was made somewhere along the line is hardly encouraged.

  4. hegemonsadun says:

    Two summers ago I interned at a law firm under a former US Attorney. He proudly boasted that under his tenure the conviction rate FELL dramatically.

    He apparently was applauded by the police community, specifically the FBI, for this – for lowering his standards in pressing charges. You would not believe how cavalier he was about prosecuting possibly innocent people.

    I don’t think overaggressive DA’s are necessarily bad people, but they certainly become fully consumed in their jobs. They become victims of tunnel vision and loose sight of the bigger picture.

  5. nobamakoolaid says:

    I have no doubt that people become prosecutors for good reasons. They want to be on the side of good in this world of good and evil. They certainly don’t get in it for the money.
    It isn’t long before everyone is either “with ‘em or against ‘em.” Sound familiar. Everybody becomes either good or bad with no shades of gray; and the only good guys or girls are cops and prosecutors.

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