Jury Considers The Murder Case Against Chicago Police Officer Lawyers for both sides gave the jury their final arguments Thursday in the murder trial of Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.


Jury Considers The Murder Case Against Chicago Police Officer

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In Chicago, the jury is beginning a second day of deliberations today in the rare trial of a police officer for an on-duty fatal shooting. The victim here was Laquan McDonald. Chip Mitchell of member station WBEZ has been following this trial.

CHIP MITCHELL, BYLINE: Four years ago, Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke and his partner were speeding toward an industrial area where officers wanted a taser to deal with a black male, who had just puncture the tire of a police SUV with a knife. Van Dyke was a block and a half away when he said, oh, my God, we're going to have to shoot the guy. That's according to a psychologist who interviewed Van Dyke and testified in his defense. Prosecutor Joseph McMahon did not lead jurors forget it in closing arguments.


JOSEPH MCMAHON: We're here because Jason Van Dyke didn't value the life of Laquan McDonald enough to do anything but shoot him. In fact, Jason Van Dyke was contemplating shooting Laquan before he even arrived, before he ever laid eyes on Laquan McDonald.

MITCHELL: The prosecution's key evidence is the dash cam video. It shows McDonald walking away from officers, and it shows Van Dyke getting out of his SUV and opening fire six seconds later. McDonald was shot 16 times. Defense attorney Dan Herbert spent days trying to define the 17-year-old for the jury. He said what matters is not what the video shows, but what Van Dyke was perceiving.


DAN HERBERT: Think about a monster movie. When that monster suddenly stops and turns and looks right at that victim...

MITCHELL: Herbert pointed to evidence that Van Dyke did not know about at the time, including PCP in McDonald's bloodstream. He argued it was reasonable for the officer to open fire and to keep firing after McDonald had dropped to the pavement.


HERBERT: The threat looked bigger. It looked closer.

MITCHELL: The charges include first-degree murder, but Chicago-Kent Law professor Richard Kling says the jurors could opt for second degree.


RICHARD KLING: If you believe you have a right to use self-defense, but the self-defense you use is excessive or unreasonable, that's a mitigating factor.

MITCHELL: Late yesterday, two alternate jurors were allowed to leave the case. They took questions in the courtroom with the judge looking on. Their names have not been released. Both said, as of yesterday, they were leaning toward a conviction.


UNIDENTIFIED ALTERNATE JUROR #1: Other officers had encountered him - Laquan McDonald - that night, and they didn't feel the need to use deadly force.

UNIDENTIFIED ALTERNATE JUROR #2: For me, he should've waited a little bit longer. I mean, he knew that taser was coming. That's what did it for me.

MITCHELL: Those two spoke for themselves, not for the 12 jurors who are deliberating. They include a Chicago police applicant and just one African-American. If the jury finds Van Dyke not guilty, activists across the city are planning protests. Joseph Williams is a gang intervention worker on the South Side.


JOSEPH WILLIAMS: A majority of groups are looking for peaceful solutions. But you've got some groups that, if there's not a guilty verdict, they might get out here and riot and want to tell some things.

MITCHELL: The police department has canceled days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts. If a not-guilty verdict comes, and if it's in the next few days, police will likely have their hands full. On Sunday, 45,000 runners will compete in the Chicago Marathon. On Monday, there's a big Columbus Day parade. For NPR News, I'm Chip Mitchell in Chicago.

GREENE: And we should tell you, NPR member station WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune have a daily podcast about this trial that is called 16 Shots.

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