Leaders Condemn Eileen Burke; Support for Clayton Harris III Ahead of March Primary

Leaders Condemn Eileen Burke; Support for Clayton Harris III Ahead of March Primary
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Leaders Condemn Eileen Burke; Support for Clayton Harris III Ahead of March Primary (Chicago, IL) — Following investigative reporting from the Chicago Tribune and WBEZ that revealed that Clayton Harris’ opponent in the Democratic primary for Cook County State’s Attorney, Eileen Burke, helped wrongfully convict an 11-year-old Black boy of murder, leaders urged Cook County voters to support Clayton Harris III for State’s Attorney in the March 19 Democratic primary election at a press conference and in an open letter Monday.

At a press conference at the historic Quinn Chapel AME Church in the South Loop Monday morning, Harris was joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Ald. David Moore; Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry; State Rep. Will Davis; State Rep. Marcus Evans; State Sen. Robert Peters, Rich Township Supervisor Calvin Jordan and Maywood Mayor Nathaniel Booker to voice concern about the reporting on the Burke wrongful conviction.

“The revelations about Eileen Burke’s role in wrongfully convicting an 11-year-old Black child were heartbreaking to read. I have an 11-year-old son. And a 9-year-old son. I thought of them as I read about this child being coerced into confessing to a crime he did not commit. And as my opponent stood up and referred to him as being part of a ‘whole new breed,’” said Harris at the press conference. “That wasn’t justice. But just as importantly–it didn’t make anyone safer. It didn’t bring justice to the family of the victim, Ms. Anna Gilvis. The true killer was never caught, and the case has gone cold. That’s not safety. Or justice. It’s not the sort of leadership we need to move us forward in 2024.”

“History teaches that wrongful convictions do not happen by accident. They are the result of systemic racial prejudice, illegal tactics and abuse of power,” said President Preckwinkle. “They reflect what the system was—and could still be, if we do not take action. If we do not continue to fight for a system grounded in justice and fairness. If we do not turn out to vote for Clayton Harris for Cook County State’s Attorney.”

In an open letter also published Monday, 24 Black elected officials again invoked the historic nature of the race.

“In the more than 100-year history of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, there has never been a Black man elected to the post. In the March 2024 Democratic primary election, we have the opportunity to change that, by electing Clayton Harris III,” the letter reads. “There is much at stake. We can elect Clayton, an experienced prosecutor and expert on public safety and criminal justice reform policy–or we can elect his opponent, Eileen Burke–a judge with a deeply concerning record of questionable rulings and ties to the Republican Party.”

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The letter cites recent reporting on a case in which Burke was the lead prosecutor in the wrongful conviction of an 11-year-old Black boy of murder. “The true killer was never caught. The family of the victim never received justice, and that young man’s life was destroyed by the wrongful conviction. Even today, with the benefit of hindsight, Burke has expressed no regret over her handling of that case. Voters of every race and creed should find this irresponsible and reckless lack of judgment gravely concerning,” the letter reads.

Nationally, Black men make up less than 3 percent of elected prosecutors. “Yet, here in Cook County Black men make up an overwhelming majority of those impacted by the criminal legal system,” the letter notes.

“We signed this letter because we want to make sure every voter of every race in Cook County understands the urgency and historic nature of this election,” said State Representative Kam Buckner. “It’s imperative that voters mobilize to ensure we seize this opportunity to move the State’s Attorney’s office forward–not backward.”

READ THE OPEN LETTER HERE.

Leaders Condemn Eileen Burke; Support for Clayton Harris III Ahead of March Primary

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