Jury was unswayed by officer’s story in McDonald case
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.