Jan 21, 2019
In 2014, Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald, a black teenager. Police dashcam video clearly showed McDonald walking away from police just seconds before Van Dyke opened up a fusillade of 16 shots into him. Van Dyke fired 12 of these shots into McDonald after he was already lying on the ground.
A jury convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. During the trial, several witnesses testified that Van Dyke was a racist cop who had used racial slurs toward them during traffic stops.
But Judge Vincent Gaughan just sentenced Jason Van Dyke to less than seven years in prison. Gaughan had the option of sentencing Van Dyke to 96 years for the aggravated battery charges. Instead he chose to call second-degree murder the more “serious” charge, which allowed him sentence Van Dyke to just 81 months. It was less than half the 18 to 20 years prosecutors asked for, and way less than the 45-year minimum Van Dyke would have gotten if the jury had voted for first-degree murder. It’s likely Van Dyke will spend no more than about 3 years in prison.
In a separate trial, three other cops were accused of lying in reports of the incident. They claimed that McDonald attacked other officers at the scene and tried to get up from the ground even after being hit by Van Dyke’s first barrage of gunshots. Another officer, Dora Fontaine, testified that one of the cops on trial falsified a report in Fontaine’s name, falsely claiming that she corroborated the claim that McDonald had tried to attack the cops with the knife.
Another witness, Jose Torres, testified that he and his son witnessed the shooting from their car, just a few car lengths away. He stated he never saw McDonald act in any aggressive manner toward the police and was shocked at the number of shots he heard. He said the cops ordered him away from the scene after he yelled out from his car. When he heard a police spokesman days later calling the shooting justified, Torres spoke out to investigators.
The judge in this second trial, Domenica Stephenson, brushed off the credibility of both of these witnesses, and dismissed what the video shows in crystal clear detail. She said, “Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event” and still describe it differently. Seriously? This judge apparently subscribes to Rudy Giuliani’s logic that “Truth isn’t truth.” She let the lying cops off, scot-free.
The “blue code of silence” is at work in yet another cover-up of a racist murder by a cop, and it extends throughout the entire “system of injustice.” The video sparked months of protests and a conclusion by federal investigators that Chicago police officers routinely violate the civil rights of minorities.
In its aftermath, the county’s top prosecutor was voted out of office, and Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, decided not to run for re-election. Yet these judges sent the message that the cops are still free to murder and get away with it.