By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
On July 18th Cook County Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin Jr. removed the judge who was handling the case of three officers accused of lying in the LaQuan McDonald case at the request of prosecutors. Judge Domenica Stephenson has now been assigned the case against CPD officers David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney. All three appeared in court last week and were released after posting bond.
Judge Martin gave no further details on how Stephenson was selected. Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan, the original judge in the case, recused herself shortly before the hearing was scheduled to start last week in the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California. She was replaced by Judge Diane Cannon. She had been randomly assigned to replace Bosnahan. It is not known if Stephenson was randomly selected to replace Cannon.
Stephenson was first elected to the bench in 2000, filling a vacancy left by Arthur Dunne, who died a year prior. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Stephenson played a vital role in the successful prosecution of three men who murdered community activist Arnold Miriles in a high-profile case that highlighted how dangerous it could be to confront violence in some Chicago neighborhoods.
Stephenson also presided over a case back in February where prosecutors dropped the murder convictions of four men convicted in a 1995 case. Stephenson had vacated the convictions of two men in connection with the case last July.
The three defendants in the LaQuan McDonald case are accused of lying in written and oral statements, contradicting video evidence in the murder of McDonald, which took place in October of 2014. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges and will appear in court again for discovery hearings on August 29.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times resulting in his death, has already been charged with first-degree murder. He is currently out on bond and is going through the preliminary hearings in connection with his case. Several other officers who were on the scene at the time of the shooting have either retired or resigned.