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updated: 6/25/2014 7:20 AM

Alvarez defends decision to charge witness

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Associated Press

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has assured several prominent jurists that she won't jump to charge any witnesses who later recant their testimony.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports her assurance came in a recent letter responding to criticism that her office chose to charge a witness who claimed he lied at a murder trial.

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At a 1994 trial, Willie Johnson identified two men as gunmen in a fatal shooting. In 2011, he told a judge he'd lied. After the judge said he didn't believe Johnson did lie, Alvarez charged him with perjury.

In their letter to Alvarez, lawyers and former judges said prosecuting Johnson could "chill future witness recantations."

But in her response, Alvarez said such prosecutions are appropriate only when it is clear the recantations are false.

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