Wait continues in Laquan McDonald case

Judge waiting for responses before naming a special prosecutor


Chicago Crusader staff report

Patience is wearing thin among activists waiting to find out about the special prosecutor who will handle the Laquan McDonald case.

Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy K. Martin on Friday, July 15 postponed making a decision until he received responses from “various public entities” he was contacted about taking up a probe into the conduct of officers who backed up Van Dyke’s account of the shooting in 2014.

“The court still awaits some response from these public entities, so at this time, the court is not in any position to make any appointment of any individual or any agency as a special prosecutor,” Martin said during the hearing.

The news disappointed Locke Bowman, a civil rights attorney, who along with a coalition of activists, petitioned the court to assign a special prosecutor to investigate the officers.

“We are very mindful that Laquan McDonald died more than 20 months ago,” Bowman said outside the courtroom.

“Time continues to march on. The circumstances of Mr. McDonald’s death were well known on the day he was killed. Those circumstances were papered over in police reports that were dramatically at odds with the video that we have all seen.

“We think it’s a matter of critical importance that this be dealt with and be dealt with promptly. I’d be lying to you if I said that the delay isn’t causing us pain and frustration, and I speak not just for myself, but for the McDonald family the citizens and organizations that we represent.”

Another hearing has been scheduled for July 29. It was not though clear whether Martin would make an appointment then.

The independent prosecutor will investigate Chicago Police officers suspected of covering up for fellow officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Bowman reaffirmed his faith in Martin. He acknowledged that   state law governing the appointment of special prosecutors requires the judge to contact agencies and the state attorney general to request help, as well as consider individual attorneys for the job.

Bowman’s group has proposed four candidates. They are former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta; former federal judge David Coar; former judge and prosecutor Patricia Holmes; and former federal prosecutor Ron Safer.

According to reports filed by Chicago police officers who were at the scene when Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times, the teenager moved toward Van Dyke and had reared back as if to throw a knife. Their accounts of the incident dramatically differs from a dashboard video that shows McDonald moving away from the police officers.

Since the video was released November 24, Black leaders and activist have called for a special prosecutor to handle the McDonald case. The shooting led many to believe that Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez lost the trust of the community after she waited 13 months to charge Van Dyke with six counts of first degree murder and one count of police misconduct. After voters ousted her in the March primary elections, Alvarez finally relented and agreed to have a special prosecutor handle the McDonald case.

The case has drawn national attention since Van dyke pleaded not guilty to the charges on December 29, 2015. Since then, he has requested the court to allow him to skip hearings to avoid coming into contact with dozens of protesters who flood the entrance of the court building on California Avenue. Van Dyke’s attorney has asked the judge to move the proceedings to another city to ensure his client will get a fair trial.

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