Kim Foxx will not seek reelection in 2024 after serving two terms as Cook County state’s attorney.
“I leave now with my head held high, with my heart full,” Foxx said at the City Club of Chicago, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Foxx said she notified Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson Monday about her decision.
“I told Mayor-elect Johnson as a Black man in leadership that his role would be very difficult. You have to keep going. But know what’s coming. His responsibility is to do the work with the full knowledge that it’s not going to be fair … but he has a job to do and elevate the voices of the people who put him there,” Foxx told the audience, according to The Sun-Times.
Johnson praised Foxx in a statement for her progressive criminal justice reform policies that led to the overturning of numerous wrongful convictions and the expunging of cannabis crimes that have long disenfranchised people of color, according to The Sun-Times.
Johnson, also a progressive Democrat, reached the pinnacle of Chicago politics after winning a runoff election on April 4. He will replace Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat and the city’s first Black woman to hold the office, whose political demise was blamed largely on the general feeling that the city’s crime problem was out of control under her leadership.
It appears that Foxx and Lightfoot had a tense relationship behind the scenes. The Chicago Tribune reported that it obtained text messages showing that Lightfoot criticized Foxx while campaigning in January for re-election, accusing the reform-minded prosecutor of “handing out certificates of innocence like they’re candy.”
“I’m assuming they misquoted you given we don’t give certificates, judges do. If in fact you said this, I remain disappointed that you continue to say things that aren’t true,” Foxx texted Lightfoot, according to The Tribune.
Lightfoot responded, “Kim, I apologize for my inartful words which were not accurately captured but nonetheless were too casual and flippant given the serious nature of the topic.”
Foxx, raised by a single mother in the Cabrini-Green public housing development, rose to prominence in 2016 when she was elected the first Black woman to lead the Cook County prosecutor’s office.
She wasted no time revamping the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit. It has led to more than 175 wrongful convictions overturned, including the mass exoneration of 15 men whose convictions were connected to the misconduct of a Chicago police officer, according to WGN Radio.
Her criminal justice reforms included focusing on violent crime prosecutions over lower-level felonies and misdemeanors, as well as changing the department’s bond decisions for suspects who can’t afford to pay $1,000 or less.
Despite criticism from law enforcement officials, Foxx won re-election and vowed to continue her progressive criminal justice reforms as she looked ahead.
“It means, in this next term, doubling down on our efforts to make sure that people with substance use disorder or mental health issues have the resources they need in communities so we can stop the de facto use of our justice system” to help people in crisis,” Foxx said after her 2020 election victory, according to NPR.
Foxx is perhaps best known for her handling of Empire actor Jussie Smollet’s case.
The rising Black actor, who is openly gay, claimed he was a victim of a hate crime in Chicago in January 2019. He told the police that two men yelled homophobic and racial slurs at him, tied a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him.
But after their investigation, the Chicago police arrested Smollett, accusing him of staging the assault and making a false report, which the actor denied. Authorities charged him with 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but Foxx’s office dropped all charges against Smollet.
Foxx explained that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Smollet, and she wanted her office instead to focus on prosecuting major crimes in the city. Her decision sparked an outcry from law enforcement officials and officers who demanded her resignation.
“They asked me over and over, ‘state’s attorney, do you have any regrets about the Class 4, nonviolent felony against a D-list actor,’” Foxx said Tuesday, referring to her decision not to prosecute Smollett, according to The Sun-Times.
“I mean, I’m not here to judge where we put our priorities. But the fact that I’ve been asked, and more ink has been spilled by editorial pages, newspapers, reporters, that … my obituary will mention Jussie Smollett makes me mad.”