Marilyn Hite Ross is the 18th State’s Attorney of Winnebago County. She is the first woman and first African American to hold this position. As State’s Attorney she launched a juvenile initiative to address the behavior of minors who enter the juvenile justice system and to educate minors in the community about the core values of the prosecutors who serve in her office. Included in her juvenile initiative was the creation of the Winnebago County State’s Attorney Junior Ambassador Program. This program is available to children in grades 6th through 12 and educates the children through interaction, illustration, and instruction regarding the four core values of the state’s attorney’s office: respect, integrity, trust, and communication. In an effort to address the needs of children appearing in delinquency court, she extended the diversion and deferred prosecution adult programs to juveniles. In addition, as part of her effort to keep children in the classroom and not the courtroom, she launched a respect campaign for children of all ages to instill in them the importance of respecting ourselves, respecting each other, and embracing our differences. She believes that this could be a foundation to promoting positive behaviors throughout the community.
Previously, Marilyn Hite Ross served as Chief of the Criminal Bureau for Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joseph P. Bruscato. She was instrumental in the formation of the Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force that investigates all incidents regarding an officer’s use of deadly force. While serving as Chief of the Criminal Bureau, she was appointed in 2016 as a special assistant to Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon to prosecute People v. Jason Van Dyke. During her tenure in the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office, she established units within the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office that are dedicated to prosecuting cold murder cases, child death cases, and child sexual assault cases.
She is a career prosecutor who served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County where she prosecuted major cases including capital murder cases. She has also served as an adjunct Professor at Concordia University in Beloit Wisconsin where she taught Constitutional Law, Business Law, Administrative Law, Criminal Justice Liability Law, and Criminal Law and Procedure. She is a member of the National Black Prosecutor’s Bar Association and the Illinois Prosecutor’s Bar Association. She currently serves as the Chair of the Winnebago County Crime Commission, the Vice Chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the President of the Carrie Lynn Center Board, Winnebago County’s Child Advocacy Center. Her recognitions include: in 2011 she was a finalist for Rockford Woman of the Year, in 2012 she was recognized by Attorney General Lisa Madigan as one of Illinois’ Distinguished Women, and in 2012 she was recognized by Booker Washington Community Center as one of 25 Black Leaders to Watch. In 2014, she was recognized by the National Black Prosecutor’s Association for more than 20 years of service and she also received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award from the Rockford Minister’s Fellowship. In 2019, she received the Rockford Ministers Fellowship Martin Luther King Jr. Elected Official award. In 2020, she was key note speaker for Collins Aerospace African American Forum in recognition of Black History month.