The jury has been cho­sen, but will it get to hear the mur­der case against Chicago cop?

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANDY GRIMM AND JON SEIDEL Staff Re­porters

Twelve or one? That’s the ques­tion Chicago cop Ja­son Van Dyke and his le­gal team are fac­ing 9 a.m. Fri­day when they ap­pear be­fore Cook County Judge Vin­cent Gaughan.

It’s the most crit­i­cal early de­ci­sion the de­fense will have.

Do they go for­ward with 12 ju­rors they’ve picked over three days this week or leave it in the hands of one man, Gaughan, to de­cide whether Van Dyke mur­dered Laquan McDon­ald when he shot the 17-year-old 16 times in Oc­to­ber 2014?

Jury ex­perts and vet­eran de­fense at­tor­neys cite a host of fac­tors that could go into a de­ci­sion by Van Dyke and his le­gal team, and there is no con­sen­sus on what he should do.

A de­fen­dant wait­ing this long to de­cide a bench or jury trial is not typ­i­cal for a crim­i­nal case, but not much is typ­i­cal in a case that’s gripped the at­ten­tion of the city, roiled the streets with protests and changed the tra­jec­tory of po­lit­i­cal careers.

In a case that’s no­to­ri­ous for a po­lice dash­cam video of the shoot­ing, seen by mil­lions, sev­eral po­ten­tial ju­rors said they hadn’t seen it.

One ju­ror, a young Latina woman, is cur­rently ap­ply­ing to be a Chicago po­lice of­fi­cer and has wanted to be a cop since she was 12. She made the cut.

And in one of the most racially charged cases in re­cent mem­ory — a white cop shoot­ing a black teen — there’s but one African-Amer­i­can on the jury of 12 — a black woman — plus a black man who’s an al­ter­nate.

McDon­ald’s great un­cle, Marvin Hunter, said Thurs­day he was dis­ap­pointed in the racial break­down but was still con­fi­dent ju­rors could reach the “right de­ci­sion.”

“The de­fense has skill­fully done what they set out to do . ... I would have liked to have seen more African-Amer­i­cans. But I be­lieve the cit­i­zenry of the county of Cook

can bring out a fair de­ci­sion in this in­stance be­cause the facts are there …,” Hunter said. “I be­lieve that any jury, no mat­ter what race they are, can bring out the right de­ci­sion.”

In all, eight women and four men make up the jury. There are four white women, three white men, three Latina fe­males, the African-Amer­i­can woman and an Asian man. Open­ing state­ments are set to be­gin the trial Mon­day, whether the jury box is empty or not.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom around the court­house at 26th Street and Cal­i­for­nia is that po­lice of­fi­cers charged with crimes fare bet­ter in bench tri­als: Rules on po­lice use of deadly force are eas­ier to ex­plain to a judge, and many judges are for­mer pros­e­cu­tors who have worked closely with cops. But that logic might be turned on its head by the no­to­ri­ety of the McDon­ald shoot­ing.

Alan Tuerkheimer, an at­tor­ney and jury con­sul­tant at Chicago-based Trial Meth­ods, said Van Dyke’s lawyers will likely be think­ing about their de­fense and whether the ju­rors they’ve met can be fair and re­quire pros­e­cu­tors to prove Van Dyke guilty be­yond a rea­son­able doubt.

“They spent a good chunk of the week with them,” Tuerkheimer said. “They’re in a great po­si­tion to say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna take my chances.’ ”

De­spite what ap­pears to be damn­ing ev­i­dence from a dash­cam video of the 2014 shoot­ing that shows Van Dyke fir­ing 16 shots into McDon­ald as the teen ap­pears to walk away from Van Dyke and his part­ner, a jury of­fers the de­fense 12 chances to dead­lock, and a sym­pa­thetic dozen might ac­quit Van Dyke en­tirely, said vet­eran de­fense lawyer Steve Green­berg.

While a judge is more likely to con­vict Van Dyke of a lesser charge than first-de­gree mur­der, a jury might be more likely to ac­quit him en­tirely.

“The thing for the de­fense with a jury is, you don’t try to make Van Dyke look like a hero,” Green­berg said. “You try to tell them what he saw in that mo­ment and what his train­ing was.”

Vet­eran de­fense lawyer Michael Et­tinger said the trial should be moved out of Cook County to pre­vent ju­rors from be­ing in­tim­i­dated by pro­test­ers into con­vict­ing Van Dyke.

“They’re hu­man,” Et­tinger said. “They get in­tim­i­dated. It’s a hard enough job sit­ting on a jury like this.”

Still, he agreed that “one strong ju­ror” can lead to a hung jury. He made note of the CPD ap­pli­cant that made the fi­nal cut.

Et­tinger said hy­po­thet­i­cally, “she con­victs him. Now she’s go­ing to be a po­lice of­fi­cer?”


Chicago Po­lice Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke lis­tens dur­ing a hear­ing last week at the Leighton Crim­i­nal Court Build­ing.


CPD Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke (cen­ter) stands be­fore the bench amid at­tor­neys for the de­fense and pros­e­cu­tion dur­ing a hear­ing last month at the Leighton Crim­i­nal Court Build­ing.

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