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The horrifying behavior of Anita Alvarez, Chicago's head prosecutor

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Reprinted from by Josie Duffy

Cook County DA Anita Alvarez
Anita Alvarez
(image by Cook County prosecutor's office staff photo)
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Over the next year I'll be writing about the prosecutors up for election in 2016. Some of them have been tyrants in office--breaking laws, over prosecuting, and doing whatever they can to secure a conviction. I'm starting with one of the very worst ones: Anita Alvarez. And because she's been so terrible, I'm going to split her story into two posts. There are just that many examples of misconduct coming out of Alvarez's office.

Alvarez is the Cook County state's attorney, which is just another way of saying that she's the DA of Chicago. She has been working in the state's attorney's office as a prosecutor for nearly 30 years and has been the head of the office since 2008. She's up for re-election next November, and the March primary is coming up quickly. Kim Foxx, a Chicago native and a believer in criminal justice reform, is challenging her in the primary. (There will be more on Foxx in the next post.)

Alvarez is known as one of the worst prosecutors in the country. Here are just a few of the dozens of stories of misconduct and bad behavior in Alvarez's office.

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SCOTUS says that sentencing children to life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment. Alvarez recommends it anyway.

In 1990, Adolfo Davis was convicted as an accomplice to a double murder. He was 14 years old when he was sentenced to life without parole. It was never even established that he fired the gun.

Then, in 2012, it looked like Davis might get another shot at a more reasonable sentence after SCOTUS ruled that mandatory sentencing of children to life without parole was cruel and unusual punishment. The court left it up to the state whether or not that ruling would apply to those already incarcerated, and in Illinois, dozens of prisoners were given new sentencing hearings. Davis was the first one to be re-sentenced.

During the hearing his lawyers told the court about Davis's childhood, where he lived in a "crawl space with dirt floors" and was raised by a "loving but illiterate grandmother who struggled to meet his most basic needs like cooking or doing laundry." The defense described a man who suffered from mental health issues that were not getting treated.

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