Jury was unswayed by of­fi­cer’s story in Mc­Don­ald case

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News - New York Times BY MITCH SMITH

Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke asked 12 ju­rors to trust his mem­ory, not a widely cir­cu­lated dash­board cam­era video, to know what re­ally hap­pened the night he shot Laquan Mc­Don­ald 16 times.

The ju­rors chose the video.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, af­ter less than eight hours of de­lib­er­at­ing, the jury con­victed Van Dyke of se­cond-de­gree mur­der and 16 counts of ag­gra­vated bat­tery with a firearm in the death of Laquan, a black teenager who was car­ry­ing a knife but veer­ing away from the po­lice.

Most ju­rors stayed in the court­room to speak to re­porters af­ter the ver­dict, as Van Dyke, who is white, was booked into jail. They said they found the of­fi­cer’s de­scrip­tion of the Oct. 20, 2014, shoot­ing to be con­tra­dic­tory, overly re­hearsed and sim­ply not be­liev­able. And they called into ques­tion of­fi­cers’ strat­egy of pro­vid­ing tear­ful tes­ti­mony to over­come dam­ag­ing video ev­i­dence when charged in a shoot­ing.

“It seemed kind of like he was fi­nally giv­ing the play af­ter they had been re­hears­ing with him for weeks,” said one ju­ror, a white woman, who no­ticed Van Dyke “star­ing at us, try­ing to win our sym­pa­thy.”

“We just didn’t buy it,” said the ju­ror, who like all the oth­ers de­clined to give her name.

Van Dyke’s trial was among the most closely watched in Chicago his­tory. Bus­loads of po­lice of­fi­cers and state troop­ers braced for the chaos that many feared would have fol­lowed an ac­quit­tal.

But in­side the jury de­lib­er­a­tion room, the main de­bate was not about whether to ac­quit or con­vict. In­stead, ju­rors were split on whether to find Van Dyke guilty of first­de­gree mur­der, which can lead to life in prison, or se­cond-de­gree mur­der, which car­ries a far shorter sen­tence.

For al­most three weeks, the ju­rors sat nearly ex­pres­sion­less in the court­room as wit­ness af­ter wit­ness de­scribed Laquan’s death.

For at least two ju­rors, the fact that Van Dyke stepped to­ward Laquan while shoot­ing raised con­cerns.


Chicago po­lice Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke, left, is taken into cus­tody Fri­day at the Leighton Crim­i­nal Court Build­ing in Chicago af­ter ju­rors found him guilty of se­cond-de­gree mur­der and ag­gra­vated bat­tery in the 2014 shoot­ing of black teenager Laquan Mc­Don­ald.

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