Attorney for Chicago Officer Who Shot and Killed Laquan McDonald Wants to Move Trial


The attorney for the Chicago Police officer facing murder charges for the controversial shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald said on Friday that he is pushing for the case to be tried outside the city, partly because his client is fearful for his life after receiving death threats.

Additionally, critical comments made about the accused officer, Jason Van Dyke, by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the general atmosphere in the city make it impossible to seat an unbiased jury in Cook County, said Dan Herbert, the officer’s lead defense attorney. Chicago is part of Cook County.

Herbert said death threats made against Van Dyke and his family have been unsettling.

“We think that at the end of the day we’re going to present some very compelling evidence to demonstrate that it’s impossible for my client get a fair trial in this case,” Herbert told reporters after his client made a brief court appearance.

Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November for the shooting death of McDonald, more than a year after the incident in which the teen was shot 16 times. The officer was charged on the same day the city was forced by court order to release a police dash cam recording of the shooting that appeared to conflict with the officer’s contention that McDonald swung a knife at officers and had put their lives in danger.

Judge Vincent Gaughan met privately with prosecutors and attorneys for Van Dyke, before Friday’s brief hearing. Gaughan said that prosecutors turned over documents form the Independent Police Review Authority, the city agency tasked with investigating police involved shootings.

The release of the video in November spurred weeks of angry protests in the streets of Chicago, including some who called for the resignation of Emanuel. It also prompted U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a civil rights investigation of the department policies and practices.

After the video’s release, Emanuel said that Van Dyke “violated both the standards of professionalism that come with being a police officer [and] also basic moral standards.”

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Source: USA Today | Aamer Madhani