The jury selection begins today in the trial against Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The officer is standing for trial for the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014.
200 potential jurors were in a Chicago courtroom this afternoon, learning of the indictment and the ins and outs of the courtroom, as relayed to them by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan. This is just the first step, though– on Monday, each juror will be interviewed individually in private by the judge. Even so, the defense for Van Dyke could decide that they prefer Gaughan alone to determine his fate, it’s a decision Van Dyke’s legal time has yet to formally make.
This case is one of many that has highlighted tensions between black communities and the police force. The Chicago Police Department released the footage of the fatal shooting of McDonald a year after it occurred. Below is a compilation of their original footage and narration by WBEZ Chicago.
In an interview last week, Van Dyke said that he was “only following the training given to him by the Chicago Police Department.” Van Dyke’s defense lawyers and police affiliates insist he acted in self defense.
The footage of the shooting, however, shows McDonald with a knife in hand, walking away from the officers as fire began.
Jason Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and aggravated battery.
Christy Lopez, a former Justice Department attorney who assisted in leading the investigation said, “components like training, discipline, recruitment and accountability are all things that must be addressed in order to change the culture of a police department.”
This is a vital case in reform efforts being pursued nationwide. Hundreds of people have already crowded the outside of Leighton Criminal Courthouse in protest, rallying for justice for Laquan McDonald. One woman told ABC7 she flew in from Minneapolis.
Rapper Vic Mensa speaks against police violence and this exact case on 2016’s “16 Shots.”