By Michelle Relerford and Alex Maragos
An attorney for the Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald plans to seek a change of venue in the case, saying he believes it will be difficult to find an unbiased jury in Cook County.
“We think that at the end of the day we’re going to present come very compelling evidence to demonstrate that it’s impossible for my client to get a fair trial in this case,” said Attorney Dan Herbert, who is representing Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Herbert has said he was considering requesting the trial be moved out of Cook County in recent months, but on Friday, he revealed the request will be made after the discovery period is finished. He noted previously that a change of venue request is an uncommon one and hasn’t been done in Cook County “in decades.”
Part of the evidence Herbert plans to show involves comments made by Emanuel criticizing Van Dyke after video of McDonald’s shooting became public. Emanuel previously told reporters, “Van Dyke violated both the standards of professionalism that come with being a police officer but also basic moral standards that bind our community together.”
“When the mayor of the city in which the pool of jurors that we would draw from has taken such an adamant stance it makes it extremely difficult for us to get a juror in here that is not predisposed to a finding of guilty,” Herbert said.
Van Dyke returned to court Friday morning for a status hearing. Cameras were allowed inside and outside the hearing, where protesters also gathered demanding justice for the slain teen.
During the hearing, prosecutors submitted materials from the Independent Police Review Authority to the defense.
“We received a bit of discovery,” Herbert said after the hearing. “That’s what’s going to continue in this case. We’ll receive bits and pieces of evidence until we finally receive all the evidence and then that’s when we will start aggressively filing motions.”
McDonald’s family was also in court today. His great uncle, Reverend Marvin Hunter has concerns about the process.
“We are asking the federal prosecutors to sit in the courtroom to ensure that that we get a fair trial,” Hunter said.
Van Dyke has been formally indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct. The first-degree murder charge came on Nov. 24, just hours before city officials made dashcam videos public showing Van Dyke shooting the 17-year-old 16 times as he walked away from police in October of 2014.
The release of the footage ignited citywide outrage, with demonstrators expressing anger that it took officials 13 months to charge the officer, who remained on paid desk duty during that time.
Herbert said in court Friday that he believes the state is “not going to meet their burden” in the case, however.
“This case, it’s a tragedy,” he said. “It’s not a murder, it’s certainly not a murder one. It’s a tragedy.”
Van Dyke has since been suspended from the police force. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and posted the required $150,000 of a $1.5 million bond to be freed from Cook County jail in November.
Herbert noted that both the officer and his family have since received death threats and Van Dyke is concerned for his family’s safety.
“Every time he leaves his house he is fearful,” the attorney said. “His life will never be the same again.”