By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
After an all-day hearing, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan announced he will make a decision on the location of the Laquan McDonald trial after jury selection.
A September 5 trial date has been set for Jason Van Dyke, whose attorney has requested a change of venue or relocation to another city.
Media outlets in Chicago on Friday, August 3, attended the proceedings in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Courts, where a sociology professor who was paid $12,000 to conduct a study on the negative impact of media publicity on the case was grilled by prosecutors. It was a last ditch effort to convince Gaughan to move the proceedings outside of Chicago.
The hearing turned out be a long day at the Creighton Criminal Courthouse. Prosecutors were presented copies of newspaper articles on the shooting, looked at images and watched several videos of the case presented on local television newscasts. There was also a screening of a music video by rapper Vic Mensa and even a 2016 political television advertisement by Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Kim Foxx, showing how her predecessor Anita Alvarez sat on the case for 13 months before charging Officer Van Dyke with first degree murder.
Van Dyke remained stoic and at times looked away as videos of protests and footage of him shooting McDonald 16 times, four years ago, were shown before Judge Vincent Gaughan.
The screening was part of an argument by lead defense Attorney Dan Herbert who put Bryan Edelman on the witness stand. Edelman is a sociology professor who conducted a study to convince Gaughan that excessive media publicity of the McDonald case will make it impossible for Van Dyke to get a fair trial in Chicago.
“As this court knows, every defendant that comes through this courtroom is entitled to a fair trial,” Herbert said in his opening argument.
On the witness stand Edelman said he polled residents from Cook County, 200 residents from Lake County and 200 from Madison County.
Edelman’s findings also revealed significantly fewer residents in Lake and Madison County believe Van Dyke is guilty of using excessive force. Edelman said all of the people polled were identified as eligible jurors for his study.
Edelman’s report also included social media coverage of the case, including numerous negative comments on Facebook that show angry sentiment against Van Dyke.
Herbert said video of McDonald’s shooting had been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube.
“Recognition of this case is very high,” Edelman testified. “People have a broad amount of knowledge in this case and the presumption of innocence has been undermined.”
With 5.2 million residents in Cook County, prosecutors argue that the odds are still good there are unbiased individuals among the 3.9 million residents who are eligible to serve as jurors.
There have been only two cases in Chicago history where a special decision was made to ensure defendants received a fair trial. In 1967, the trial of Richard Speck, was moved to Peoria. During the Chicago trial of serial killer John Wayne Gacy in 1980, jurors were selected from Winnebago County.