Judge next week will decide whether to throw out murder conviction
Crusader Staff Report
A Cook County judge next week will decide whether to throw out the conviction of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, whose attorneys say did not receive a fair trial when he was found guilty of second-degree murder on October 5 for shooting 17-year Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Sentencing for the disgraced officer was scheduled on October 31 at the Leighton Criminal Courts building, but Judge Vincent Gaughan held off on the decision after Van Dyke’s attorneys filed a motion to throw out the conviction, hoping to get a new trial for their client. Gaughan granted prosecutors five weeks to respond to the defense’s motions.
Gaughan will make a decision on Friday, December 14, after hearing both sides.
Defense attorneys claim Gaughan made several mistakes that prevented Van Dyke from getting a fair trial, including the judge’s refusal to move the case out of Cook County, and rejecting several jury instructions proposed by the defense.
Van Dyke was placed behind bars at a Cook County jail before he was transferred for safety reasons to Rock County jail in Rock Island, IL. At the hearing on October 31, Van Dyke appeared in a yellow jail jumpsuit, but he was not in handcuffs or shackles while in the courtroom.
Lead Attorney Daniel Herbert at the last hearing said his client was “scared and lonely” as he awaits his sentencing.
Van Dyke faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction for second-degree murder, and 6 to 30 years in prison for each count of aggravated battery. If he served those terms consecutively, Van Dyke could spend at least 96 years in jail for the aggravated battery convictions alone.
Some experts say it’s unlikely Van Dyke will face such a severe sentence.
On Tuesday, December 4, the Chicago Police Board moved to fire Van Dyke from the police force along with four police officers. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in 2016, moved to fire Van Dyke and Sergeant Stephen Franko, Officers Janet Mondragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes, following a report from the City Inspector General who recommended the department fire 11 officers because of their alleged misconduct in the McDonald case.
Two of those officers, David March and Joseph Walsh, are on trial for police misconduct along with officer Thomas Gaffney, who was not named in the IG report. The three are charged with conspiring to cover up the McDonald case by falsifying police reports.
March and Walsh retired from the force before Johnson moved to fire them. Gaffney remains on the force, but he is on unpaid suspension while he stands trial in the conspiracy case.
State officials revoked Van Dyke’s certification after he was convicted of a felony. However, he is still an unpaid city employee until the Chicago Police Board formally fires him.