Cop charged with Laquan McDonald’s murder must attend hearings, despite protest concerns, says court

Criminal Justice



Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer charged in the killing of a 17-year-old black male in a high-profile incident in 2014 that sparked significant outrage, will have to attend all hearings in his murder trial in person, a judge ruled Thursday.

Daniel Hebert, Van Dyke’s attorney, argued that his client should not have to attend the hearings, due to security concerns, DNA Info reports. Owen “John” Van Dyke, the defendant’s father, testified that he and his son have been driving rental cars to hearings because protesters would follow the pair from the Chicago criminal courthouse, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Judge Vincent Gaughan, a Circuit Court of Cook County jurist assigned to the case, said he will work with attorneys and the sheriff’s office to create a stronger security plan for Van Dyke’s future hearings.

Nearly three years ago and while on duty, Van Dyke was seen on a police dashboard camera shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. Release of the footage led to a Department of Justice report that found officers frequently use excessive force against people of color but are rarely disciplined. Since being indicted, Van Dyke has been suspended without pay.

In April defense counsel complained about numerous protestors who attended Van Dyke’s hearings, and Gaughan reportedly stated at a status hearing that protesters could be held in contempt of court, including people who brought signs criticizing the officer, either inside or outside Gaughan’s courtroom.

A prosecutor said that while Van Dyke’s lawyer has complained about signs and dirty looks from protesters, no physical threats to the defendant have been identified, DNA Info reports. Sheriff’s officers testified that additional security has been in place for Van Dyke since last May.

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