By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
The Chicago police officer charged with first degree murder in the brutal killing of Laquan McDonald in 2014 lost a motion that would have allowed him to appear via closed circuit television for preliminary hearings. Jason Van Dyke’s attorneys argued unsuccessfully that their client was the target of taunts and threats from the public while in the Cook County Court building. Judge Vincent Gaughan however denied their motion, but did order for Cook County Sheriff deputies to come up with a security plan for Van Dyke and his family on days they attended court.
“It’s our job to make sure everyone in this building, including the defendant in this high-profile case is safe,” said the Sheriff’s Department’s Chief Operating Officer Bradley Curry. “We also don’t want to offer him special treatment that could affect this trial.”
Attorneys for Van Dyke, who is accused of shooting McDonald 16 times during a 911 call for vandalism, argued protestors were threatening his client and family. He said Van Dyke’s father’s car was damaged on one occasion and the older Van Dyke fell and hurt himself during a media swarm in another incident.
“This case is special, the threats are real and the Sheriff is liable for the safety of Mister Van Dyke,” argued Attorney Dan Herbert.
But the special prosecutor on the case Joseph McMahon only agreed that the case was special.
“This is a high profile case, but the defendant should be treated like every other defendant,” McMahon said.
Since his first appearance last year, Van Dyke was greeted with hordes of protestors who slung insults towards him. But since that time the number of protestors has been less with each hearing. Last Thursday when Judge Gaughan made his ruling, a Crusader reporter was among several journalists who did not observe any protestors in or outside the court- room.
Since Van Dyke has been charged, his defense team has attempted a number of legal maneuvers to try and delay the trial or have it moved out of Cook County. They question whether their client will get a fair trial given the international attention being given to the case.
But WVON talk show host Cliff Kelly has encouraged peaceful protestors and said the community is well within its rights to demonstrate outside the courthouse. Kelly said it is absurd for Van Dyke and his attorneys to argue he is not safe when McDonald is dead.
“This child was murdered and the person accused of murdering him is a cop. If that isn’t a reason to protest what is?” Kelly asked.
Sheriff executives testified during the hearing there were no credible threats against Van Dyke or any member of his family. They reiterated he will still have to use the same public access entrance as any other defendant. His next court date is May 25.
Van Dyke’s family has said they have been forced to rent vehicles to drive to and from court in an attempt to evade the media and protestors.