It’s been more than a year since 19-year-old Myron Richardson was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. He was discovered in the trunk of a car engulfed in flames on the far South Side on July 6, 2021. A suspect, 20-year-old Darius Dawson, is in police custody and was charged with concealment of a homicide.

“He was everything to us. He was a good son, a good brother and a good boyfriend. Myron was a good kid,” his mother, Carmela Richardson, told The TRiiBE on Aug. 5. 

It’s also been two years since 30-year-old Tiara Taylor was shot and killed in her home. No one has been charged with her murder. 

“She was a wonderful mother. She was a wonderful daughter, a sister. She had a loving and caring heart. She would go out of her way and beyond for people,” Felicia Guilty said while describing her daughter Taylor, who was killed in July 2020.

Richardson and Guilty are still on the quest for justice for their children, as are the families of countless gun violence victims in Chicago. For both mothers, justice looks like criminal charges being brought against the people who murdered their children.

On Aug. 5, both mothers joined five other families during a press conference staged at the Daley Center across the street from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO), urging Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and CCSAO prosecutors to reexamine cases involving their loved ones. They’re asking the CCSAO to pursue additional charges in cases as needed, and to respond to phone calls from the families of gun violence victims. 

Organized by community activist Andrew Holmes, the intended goal of the event was to “express concern over the lack of impunity criminals have and the State’s Attorney’s office who stands behind them,” according to a written release. 

Holmes, disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and “Case Files Chicago” TV producer Lisette Guillen did express their concerns with their remarks after repeatedly mentioning Foxx’s name. However, all three reiterated during the press conference that the goal was not to bash the state’s attorney.

“These families are not seeking vengeance. They’re seeking justice and they deserve closure. We’re here today to support them. And as Andrew Holmes said, not to criticize, or I should say, not to bash State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. I believe the State’s Attorney Office and Cook County can do a better job at prosecuting cases, particularly those involving violent criminals,” Blagojevich said. 

They also wondered aloud about what resources or support could be offered to help the CCSAO and whether that support should come from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) or Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, because “somewhere in this [SAO] office, there’s a loophole,” Holmes said.

The people committing gun crimes in Chicago are walking away without being charged, leading them to inflict further violence in communities, Holmes added.

“And if we need to help her get this caseload right, get these state’s attorneys on board and stop letting these offenders out, then so be it. That’s what we need to do. But we’re not bashing Kim Foxx, for the fifth and sixth time. We’re finding out where she needs help to prosecute these individuals,” Holmes said. 

Holmes, Blagojevich, Guillen and the families at the press conference laid the blame squarely on Foxx’s shoulders, believing that she and the CCSAO hold all the power in bringing down justice. 

But what’s missing from this conversation — along with many other conversations criticizing the work of progressive prosecutors nationwide —  is the recognition that the SAO is a part of a much-larger ecosystem. That ecosystem includes judges, who are solely responsible for setting bail, and police, who are responsible for gathering and presenting sound evidence to the SAO that supports filing appropriate charges.

“Where is due process?” CPD torture survivor Mark Clements asked during the press conference. At age 16, Clements was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He was incarcerated for 28 years before his conviction was overturned in 2009. 

“Mr. Governor [Blagojevich], when you were in office, you had tons of executive clemency [requests] which you ignored,” Clements said, referencing the 1,160 clemency requests that Blagojevich denied between 2003 and 2008. The former governor, whose 14-year prison sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump in 2020, only pardoned 67 people, according to a Chicago Tribune report

Blagojevich said he agreed with what Clements said about due process. 

However, he added, “many of these guys who are charged with violent crimes, in fact, did. And so the question is whether or not we err on the side of public safety and keep them locked up until the courts can decide whether they did it or didn’t do it. Or we let them out.”

In 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker commuted 49 prison sentences, 22 in 2021 and none so far in 2022, according to WBEZ. Foxx has granted 229 exonerations since taking office in 2016.   

Today, Clements is an organizer with the Chicago Torture Justice Center, which seeks to address the traumas of police violence and institutionalized racism through access to healing and wellness services, trauma-informed resources and community connection. 

“What have we seen in the [disgraced CPD Det. Reynaldo] Guevara scandal? Eight exonerations in less than 10 days last week,” Clements said, referencing Foxx’s move to ask judges to vacate eight murder convictions that were tied to Guevara on Aug. 9

As a result, two people in custody were released, while five completed their prison sentences and are no longer in custody. According to a written release from the SAO, one person remains in custody pending further court proceedings. Guevara has been under investigation for torture and submitting false confessions and evidence dating back to the 1980s and 1990s.

“And you know what? Guess what? They were innocent. This is going to cost taxpayers. This is wrong,” Clements said. “My heart bleeds for all of these people here. But let’s keep it real. This is an attack by the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police].”

Who is to blame for the rise in violent crime?

The rhetoric shared at the Aug. 5 press conference by those seven family members, Holmes, Blagojevich and Guillen points to an ongoing larger national issue: conservative-minded leaders and mainstream news headlines perpetuating the myth that criminal justice and bail reform is driving the increase in violent crime.

“It makes no sense to allow someone charged with murder, attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, and let them out on bond,” Blagojevich said at the presser on Aug. 5. He served as Illinois governor from 2003 until he was impeached and removed from office in 2009 following his arrest on federal corruption charges. 

“Now there’s a good chance that some of them may be innocent. The law says they’re presumed to be innocent,” Blagojevich continued. “Yet the statistics tell us they’re guilty in most of those cases.”

Blagojevich used rhetoric that served as a back-handed attack against the work of progressive prosecutors like Foxx, who are actively working on criminal justice and bail reform.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans has released quarterly bond court reports since he implemented General Order 18.8A in September 2017 to reform bail practices in Cook County. The order mandates that judges make any monetary bonds required for release affordable to the individual, creating procedural precautions to help ensure that no person is held in custody pretrial solely because they cannot afford to post bail. Judges determine and set bail. The CCSAO does not. 

The Cook County Circuit Court’s bond court data from October 2017 to March 2022 shows 3.4% of felony defendants and 5.1% of non-violent misdemeanor defendants were charged with a new crime while on pretrial release.

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The Revolutionary Column | Is Kim Foxx a scape/GOAT?

In part one of our interview with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, columnist Bella BAHHS calls the steps that Foxx has taken to downsize the footprint of prosecution and reduce the county’s incarcerated population “commendable.”

Clements expressed his support for the victims and families present, but added that the press conference was an attack on Foxx. He argued that the blame for not holding people who commit crimes accountable doesn’t rest on Foxx. 

“Foxx is doing the best that she can do,” Clements told The TRiiBE. In a November 2021 one-on-one interview with Foxx for “The Revolutionary Column,” she shared that her office vacated 114 convictions tied to Ronald Watts, a former CPD sergeant who ran a criminal enterprise within the department with a crew of crooked cops who terrorized the residents of the Ida B. Wells housing projects in Bronzeville. In 2013, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

“Foxx has given us some form of credibility within the criminal justice system, but due to the fact that it has layers and layers of corruption, it’s going to take time,” Clements added.

On Aug. 12, The TRiiBE reached out to Foxx again to unpack the mistrust that lies between the SAO’s office and victims’ families.  Although Foxx couldn’t speak about specific cases that remain under investigation, she addressed why there’s a national perception that people on pretrial release are driving the increase in violent crime. 

“I think Chief Judge Evans and the data have shown about 5% of those folks come back with a [new] crime of violence. You need to tell that story, because what it means is 95%, the overwhelming majority of people who are out on bond pretrial, do not pick up a violent offense,” Foxx said, referencing the Cook County Circuit Court’s bond court data. “I’m heartened [by] efforts from, like, the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, around wrap-around services for people who are out on bail, because I think it’s long overdue. We need to wrap those folks in as many services as we can to prevent them from engaging in that behavior.”

According to Illinois Justice Criminal Authority research, the outcomes for people held in jail pretrial are worse than for those out on pretrial release, Foxx said. For example, people detained pretrial could risk losing their employment or housing. If they are parents or caregivers and detained pretrial, that means they’d have to find alternative childcare or risk losing their children. Foxx said some of those children end up in the Department of Children and Family Services.

“All of these people, whether detained or released, are presumed innocent until they are found guilty by a judge or jury,” Foxx said. “So these determinations of who stays in custody, knowing what these outcomes are, are really important, and why we have to be thoughtful around those conversations, and why we cannot afford to let misinformation rhetoric guide that conversation, because it will ultimately hurt predominantly Black defendants in the long run.”

The quest for justice 

Richardson and Guilty have not given up hope. Both mothers are committed to seeking justice for their children and other families who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence in Chicago. 

In a follow-up interview with The TRiiBE on Aug. 5, Richardson shared that there is a person in custody related to her son Myron’s case, but the suspect, Darius Dawson, has only been charged with concealment of a homicide. 

Richardson, however, wants to see a murder charge filed against the person who killed her son.

“Are y’all still out there investigating? Are y’all still looking for new evidence? I need to know that verbally. Is there a chance that he’s going to be charged with murder?” Richardson asked during her interview with The TRiiBE. “I need to know these things, and those are the questions that have not been answered.” 

Richardson fears Dawson will go free without additional charges such as arson, murder or obstruction of justice. Additionally, she alleges that other witnesses may have been involved in her son’s murder and they should also be charged by county prosecutors. 

“The charge that they [the SAO] charged him with only holds 30 months probation. So at this time, if we go to trial, he can plead guilty to that, and then he’s going to be done with my son’s case because he has been locked up for eight months now,” Richardson explained. 

Concealment of a homicide is a class three felony offense. The sentencing range for a conviction is probation or up to five years in prison, a CCSAO spokesperson wrote in an email to The TRiiBE on Aug. 17. 

Dawson pled not guilty during an arraignment hearing on Jan. 14, 2022. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 12. 

Although Foxx couldn’t speak to specific cases, she reiterated how essential it is for her office to examine the facts of a case, any evidence involved in a case, and the law when reviewing cases. All of these factors determine whether the SAO should file charges and, if so, what type of charges to file. The CCSAO’s felony review unit looks at the facts and evidence in every case to make a determination on whether there’s enough information and evidence to support filing a charge.

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However, Foxx said, there are times when the SAO cannot file charges because they lack sufficient evidence to support it. 

In those instances, the case transitions back to the police department as a continuing investigation. Then the police are responsible for securing more information and evidence; that could be more witnesses, more forensic testing or more gunshot residue, depending on the type of case it is, Foxx explained.

“The unfortunate reality of doing this work is that justice often feels elusive when we’re unable to charge cases. But I absolutely have an obligation only to bring charges when the facts, the evidence and the law support it,” Foxx said. 

The family of Tiara Taylor also expressed frustration with the way Foxx and the SAO are handling her case. Taylor’s mother and sister Kiara Newsome said they don’t support Foxx. They also feel they haven’t received enough communication from the SAO about Taylor’s case. 

“My sister was killed inside her home by her husband, and Kim Foxx had the person who did it, and they let him go. Because he said it was an accident. How can you kill somebody by accident?” Newsome asked. 

According to an ABC7 Chicago news report, Taylor’s husband, Jarod Wallace, told police they had an argument and fought over a gun. He told police that Taylor shot herself. CPD officers took Wallace into custody, but he was not charged by the SAO. 

“He is walking free with no background or anything, and it just doesn’t make sense,” Newsome added.

Guilty said the SAO’s office declined to file charges in her daughter’s case. In her interview with The TRiiBE, she said state prosecutors told her they didn’t want to proceed with charges because her daughter may have been the aggressor. 

Guilty said investigators questioned Taylor’s 11-year-old son, who was home when his mother was shot. 

“They didn’t go over her case. They didn’t even investigate. They didn’t come talk to us. They said nothing to us. I called the detectives every day. I called the state’s attorney. I called everybody, trying to get in touch with somebody,” Guilty said. “Then, when I got in touch with them, I don’t think they did their job. They didn’t do their job at all. They didn’t do the job because they didn’t come and talk to none of her family.”

The Cook County SAO has a unit called Victim Witness Assistance. It was created in 1981 and is a prosecutor-based victim service unit. The unit is mandated by the Illinois Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, and it ensures that victims and witnesses receive timely information about court proceedings and referrals for social services. 

Foxx told The TRiiBE that there are about 75 people working in the unit at the CCSAO. Some families have cases where they want the CCSAO to file charges, but sometimes the office declines to do so because it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to support charges. 

“Victim Witness [Assistance] may be involved at the review stage of the case, but if a case is not filed in court then, traditionally, our victim witness folks are no longer working with those families,” Foxx explained.

For cases still being investigated by law enforcement, Foxx said the investigating law enforcement agency is the point of contact for victims, victims’ families and witnesses. The SAO’s office, she explained, is generally not involved until a charging decision has been made by the SAO’s office or there’s a request from authorities for the office to file additional charges. 

Throughout her tenure as state’s attorney, Foxx said she’s personally met and spoken to hundreds of victims’ families and victims’ rights groups, such as Purpose over Pain and The Sisterhood. She added that many of those cases have not come through her office, and that victims and their families have expressed their frustration to her when no arrests have been made or charges filed in the murders of their loves ones.

“It’s not lost on me. I’ve heard that frustration that they feel since the moment I walked into this office. They aren’t being heard and feel like people are not appreciating what the loss means to them in respecting how they should be communicated with,” Foxx told The TRiiBE. “That is something I was mindful of even before I came into office. It is one of the reasons that I believe it is my responsibility to talk to victims and their families.”

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.