On April 25, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced during a speech at the City Club of Chicago that she would not seek reelection in 2024.

“At the conclusion of my term, November of 2024, I will be stepping down as State’s Attorney. I will not be on next year’s ballot, by my choice,” Foxx told the room. 

It’s not a decision that she made lightly, she added.

“I became State’s Attorney to deliver safety, justice and equity. I feel that I have made my mark, so I’m ready to let new leadership step forward,” Foxx said in a written statement following today’s speech. “Over the next year and half, my office will continue to work diligently for the people of Cook County and uphold the values of a fair and just legal system.” 

Before Foxx’s remarks, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who Foxx worked under for two years, spoke at length about their work on criminal justice reforms and how Foxx continued that work when she became Cook County State’s Attorney in 2016. 

“She’s led her office through one of the most turbulent and unprecedented times in recent history, with a global pandemic and a national surge in gun violence, which has profoundly impacted our local communities,” Preckwinkle said. “During this time, she’s focused on collaboration, community outreach, and transparency. Cook County is better because of her leadership, her partnership and her commitment to working for justice in the pursuit of thriving, healthy and safe communities across Cook County.” 

Foxx, who was raised by her mother and grandmother in the Chicago Housing Authority’s  Cabrini-Green project on the Near North Side, obtained her law degree at Southern Illinois University. A survivor of childhood sexual assault, she worked in the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office before joining the Cook County State’s Attorney Office (CCSAO), where she worked for 12 years as an Assistant State’s Attorney. Preckwinkle hired Foxx as a deputy chief of staff in 2013 and later promoted her to chief of staff.

She was swept into office as a reform candidate in 2016, becoming the first Black woman to run the CCSAO. She won 58 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary and 72 percent in the general election.

The Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression (CAARPR) praised Foxx for her “contributions to the cause of justice” in a statement released Tuesday. “The Chicago Police Department is so filled with racism, corruption and criminal behavior, it can only be swept clean by the power of a massive movement,” the statement read in part.“The election of Kim Foxx in 2016 was an expression of the masses desire for justice as she received 1.5 million votes.”

Anita Alvarez, the incumbent State’s Attorney whom Foxx defeated in the 2016 primary, had been the target of an activist campaign to remove her from office following two high-profile killings by Chicago police (CPD) officers.

In a widely criticized move in 2013, Alvarez charged then-CPD officer Dante Servin with involuntary manslaughter for killing Rekia Boyd; he was acquitted. She was accused of covering up the CPD killing of Ronald Johnson in 2014. 

 In 2016, Alvarez waited more than a year to charge then-CPD officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, doing so only after video of the killing was made public. 

Protesters demanding Alvarez’s resignation launched a “Bye Anita” campaign on social media and in the streets. On Black Friday 2015, they closed down the Magnificent Mile by barricading store entrances with their bodies, and they held a 16-hour sit-in at the Cook County building the following month. They also created illustrated zines opposing Alvarez that they distributed in neighborhoods, CTA buses and other public spaces. While the activists did not expressly endorse Foxx, their organizing helped make Alvarez unelectable, setting the stage for Foxx’s victory.

“We were not there to say vote for this person or that [Foxx] is a person who’s going to fix everything, because our position was that we were against the prosecutor’s office, period,” Aislinn Pulley told The TRiiBE. “But specifically, we needed to get Anita Alvarez out of the office.”

Pulley is the executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Center. She also founded the Chicago Black Lives Matter chapter in 2014 and was one of the organizers leading the “Bye Anita” campaign, which consisted of multiple organizations, including Assata’s Daughters, BYP100, Fearless Leading By Youth (F.L.Y.), and more. 

For Pulley, an abolitionist, and others centrally involved in the campaign, the SAO’s office has a history of causing irreparable harm in Black and brown communities.

“We were coming from the abolitionist politics around critiquing the role of the state prosecutor as a whole. And just like with Edward Hanrahan, who was the state’s attorney and conspired with the FBI and CPD to facilitate the assassination of [Black Panther Party] Chairman Fred [Hampton] and Deputy Mark Clark, that office has historical blood on his hands,” Pulley explained.

Foxx also referenced Hampton and Clark’s murders during her speech. “I mentioned that because, over the last couple of years, I’ve heard people mentioning other people’s names as somehow disgraceful upon the Office of the State’s Attorney. And I have to say we have to go back to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark,” Foxx said. 

Once in office, Foxx set to work instituting reforms. She became a leader in the effort to reform cash bail, agreeing early in her tenure to release people arrested for nonviolent offenses who had bail set at amounts less than $1,000. The move was initially praised, but as she initiated additional reforms such as exonerating wrongfully connected people, and as the push to abolish cash bail gained momentum, Foxx became the target of criticism by adherents to traditional tough-on-crime approaches. 

But she pressed on with reforming the CCSAO. In 2018, Foxx had the office create an open data portal and released six years’ worth of felony case data, the first of its kind in the country.  Residents can enter their ZIP codes and find out how many arrests have been made, how many cases were referred to the CCSAO, how many people were charged, whether there were convictions and what type of sentence was given.Under Foxx, the CCSAO created roles such as the first-ever Chief Data Officer and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer.   

In 2019, she began expunging marijuana convictions, and by 2022 had surpassed 15,000 such expungements. She also directed CCSAO to stop prosecuting shoplifting under $1,000 and to dismiss drug cases in favor of alternatives to prosecution. Ultimately, Foxx declined to file charges in thousands of low-level cases that her predecessor would have prosecuted. 

During the 2020 rebellions in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, Foxx issued a policy to decriminalize protest, making her one of the only prosecutors in the nation to do so.

She was a tireless supporter of the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, which instituted sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal legal system following its passage in 2021. Foxx testified in Springfield in support of bail reform over the objections of the Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Association. 

“My efforts on bail before were centered in the Black and brown community and when the [Illinois] Supreme Court and I feel with all measure of confidence, finds that the Act is constitutional Cook County stands ready to implement the first of its kind legislation in the United States that is eliminating cash bail. We look forward to the day,” Foxx said.


Under her watch, the CCSAO has vacated 114 convictions tied to Ronald Watts, a former CPD sergeant who led a crew of corrupt cops in terrorizing residents of the Ida B. Wells housing project in Bronzeville. Watts, who extorted people, lied under oath and robbed drug dealers, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2013 after he pled guilty to robbing an undercover FBI officer. Foxx also asked the court to vacate eight murder convictions tied to disgraced CPD detective Reynaldo Guevara, who has been the subject of multiple wrongful conviction lawsuits that have cost the city more than $70 million. She also expanded the CCSAO’s Convictions Integrity Unit adding new positions specifically to scrutinize cases tied to disgraced CPD Commander Jon Burge.

By August 2022, Foxx had granted 229 exonerations. Largely as a result of her efforts, Illinois led the nation in exonerations from 2018 to 2021.

Foxx’s work around bail reform, wrongful convictions, and exonerations can be applauded, Pulley said, because they’ve led to a reduction in incarceration and were important and historic. 

“Many of the things that she was able to do was a part of beginning to reverse the policies that created the behemoth of incarceration that we have today, which is the most people incarcerated in the world,” Pulley explained. 

Though Foxx has made positive steps to reduce the footprint of incarceration, Pulley said there’s still more work to be done. 

“The State’s Attorney’s office needs to stop fighting torture survivors cases, defending torturous cops,” she added.

However, Foxx gained national profile not from her efforts to reform CCSAO and exonerate wrongfully convicted people, but from controversy after the office agreed to drop charges against Jussie Smollett in 2019. The Empire actor staged an attack on himself in River North, and was arrested for filing a false police report after his story unraveled. Foxx recused herself from the case; the CCSAO dropped charges in exchange for Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bail and performing community service. The Fraternal Order of Police and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel strongly criticized Foxx for the decision, and she requested an independent investigation from the Cook County Inspector General. A special prosecutor was appointed, and Smollett was later convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to 150 days in jail, which he appealed.

Speaking about her office’s efforts to overturn wrongful convictions, Foxx mentioned the Smollet case jokingly, telling the City Club that her obituary will mention him. 

“They ask me over and over again, ‘State’s Attorney Foxx, do you have regrets about the Class 4 non-violent felony against a D-list actor who committed a crime against himself?’” she said.

In 2020, Foxx was reelected after winning the Democratic primary by nearly 20 points over challenger Bill Conway Jr., despite Conway raising $11.9 million, most of which was donated by his father, to Foxx’s $2.8 million. She went on to win the general with 54 percent of the vote. (Conway was elected 34th Ward alder in 2023.)

Criticism—sometimes overstated or misplaced—continued to follow Foxx despite her reelection. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was initially viewed by some voters as a reform candidate during her own historic 2020 election, routinely lambasted Foxx in public once she was in office and sparred with her privately in efforts to boost her own tough-on-crime cred. Lightfoot lost reelection in the 2023 general election, coming in third behind Paul Vallas and now mayor-elect Brandon Johnson.

In a statement released Tuesday, Johnson praised Foxx.

“Kim Foxx made history as the first Black woman elected as Cook County state’s attorney, and has been instrumental in working to reform the Conviction Bond Office, which has resulted in overturning nearly 200 wrongful convictions, expunging more than 15,000 cannabis crimes, and bringing equity to a criminal justice system that has long disenfranchised people and communities of color,” the statement read. “She has led her office with dignity and civility, and as a colleague at the county level, I am grateful for the work that she has accomplished in her two terms. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.
is the digital news editor for The TRiiBE.