A coalition of civil rights attorneys and others filed a court petition Tuesday seeking to force Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to hand over the prosecution and any further investigation involving the fatal police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald to a special prosecutor.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has charged Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with murder in the shooting death of McDonald. No other officers on the scene, or who investigated the case, have been charged.
"She is beholden to police in which she has entrusted that future and it has destroyed her effectiveness," says Locke Bowman of Northwestern University's MacArthur Justice Center.
The coalition alleges Alvarez has an allegiance to Chicago police.
"This is an extraordinary measure that is required to restore public confidence," says Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
"Clearly justice delayed is justice denied, and in this case some 400 days was outrageous," says 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr.
"This must be the first step to legislation that has a special prosecutor office that deals with all police misconduct and police brutality cases," says Flint Taylor of the People's Law Office
Anita Alvarez disputes these claims and issued a statement saying in part:
"The State's Attorney's Office has spent over a year working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, using the full resources of the most professional and respected investigative agency in the nation to build a meticulous case against Jason Van Dyke...It is clear that there is no legal conflict in this case, and prosecution will proceed to hold Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald."
Illinois law dictates that in an ongoing criminal case it's the presiding judge who decides whether a special prosecutor is needed because of potential bias by a state attorney's office. Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan is overseeing the Van Dyke's case. One attorney speaking Tuesday, Locke Bowman, said activists would push for a state law establishing a permanent special prosecutor's office to handle cases that involved allegations of abuse against police.
For the family of Laquan McDonald, they look forward to any independent inquiry into what happened and why.
"I am thankful for this effort that has been put forth to begin to start a process of real justice," says Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald's great uncle.
Alvarez also pointed out Tuesday that the timing for filing this petition places it right before a primary election, but the filers say politics is not a motivator. A judge will rule on the petition Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Group pushes to remove state's attorney from Laquan McDonald case