CHICAGO (Reuters) - A former U.S. attorney will conduct an independent review of the Chicago law department’s civil rights litigation division after a federal judge ruled that a city lawyer hid evidence in the fatal police shooting of a black man, officials said on Sunday.
The announcement, made by the city’s law department, comes three days after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he would order an outside assessment of his administration’s legal team after the resignation of lawyer Jordan Marsh.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang had singled out Marsh for withholding an emergency radio dispatch in a civil trial over the killing of black motorist Darius Pinex during a 2011 traffic stop by two Chicago policemen.
The judge ordered a new trial in the case, reversing a federal jury’s decision in favor of the two officers, Raoul Mosqueda and Gildardo Sierra. It was the second time in less than two months that Emanuel’s administration has faced allegations of police cover-ups in shootings.
“We are taking immediate action to ensure that city attorneys never again repeat the violations that were made in the Pinex case,” Stephen Patton, the city’s top lawyer, said in a statement about the law division review.
The U.S. Justice Department is already conducting a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department, which has come under sharp criticism for its use of force in a spate of recent cases, including the fatal 2014 shooting of a black teenager.
Dan Webb, a partner in the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP and former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, will conduct the review of the law department’s civil rights division, a statement said.
Webb will report “any evidence of past or present potential misconduct” to the city’s inspector general, according to the statement. He will also provide a public report on his recommendations.
Robert Michels, a Winston & Strawn partner and former assistant U.S. attorney, will assist Webb.
The law firm will bill the city $295 per hour, a discount from Webb’s normal rate of $1,335 per hour, the statement said.
In December, a judge ordered the mayor to release a police dash-cam video that had been withheld by the city during Emanuel’s re-election campaign.
The video showed a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald who carried a pocket knife and appeared to be walking away from police. Its release triggered protests and calls for Emanuel’s resignation.
Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Rigby