COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrived in court Friday morning to answer his indictment in the October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald amid taunts of “coward” from passersby.
The indictment, returned this week, charged Van Dyke with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct.
In a court appearance that took just seconds, Van Dyke stood before the judge and was told he will have a Dec. 29 arraignment.
After court, Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, said he’s looking into moving the trial out of Cook County due to the extended media coverage his case as received, as well as damning comments about Van Dyke from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“We’re going to have to find a county that is outside of the reach of the mayor’s comments,” Herbert said. “He had essentially told everyone in the public [that] my client murdered Mr. McDonald, and he’s a bad apple.”
Herbert went on to call Emanuel’s outrage “a little selective,” and said there are many “egregious” issues in the city the mayor chooses to ignore.
Laquan’s great-uncle, Marvin Hunter, told reporters he too wanted the trial moved away from Cook County, claiming he won’t get a fair trial here, where “the police police the police.”
“We feel that he was murdered, and we would like justice,” Hunter said.
Van Dyke was released on bond on Nov. 30, six days after being arrested on a single murder charge for the shooting. He was indicted on six counts of murder Tuesday, and appeared before Cook County Judge James Brown Friday.
Herbert said he wasn’t surprised by the six murder counts.
“It’s essentially: They charged murder a couple of different ways,” he said Friday. “It’s nothing that we were surprised by at any stretch. It’s essentially how murder cases are charged every single day here. The only distinction … would be the extra count of official misconduct.”
It’s common for prosecutors to pursue multiple counts on the same charge, using different legal theories. The end goal is that at least one count will lead to conviction. In this case, prosecutors allege that Van Dyke committed murder when he:
- intentionally shot Laquan while armed with a gun
- shot Laquan while armed with a gun, knowing that such an act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm
- personally fired his gun, as he intentionally shot Laquan while armed with a gun
- personally fired his gun, as he shot Laquan while armed with a gun, knowing that such an act created a strong possibility of death or great bodily harm
- personally fired his gun, proximately causing death, while intentionally shooting Laquan while armed with a gun
- and personally fired his gun, proximately causing death, as he shot Laquan while armed with a gun, knowing that such an act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm
The original charge against Van Dyke was announced the same day as the court-ordered release of a dashcam video showing the officer shoot Laquan 16 times in Archer Heights.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she sped up the charges “in the interest of public safety.”
The video’s release kicked up a citywide firestorm over the city’s handling of police misconduct, leading Emanuel to fire Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and appoint a new head of the Independent Police Review Authority, which is responsible for investigating officer-involved shootings.
But those moves have done little to quell near-daily protests calling for both Emanuel and Alvarez to resign over the 13-month delay in charges being brought against Van Dyke.