Officer Jason Van Dyke Probably Won't Go To Trial For A While
Chicago officials released a dash-cam video on Tuesday showing a white police officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a black 17 year old, 16 times in October 2014. A judge ruled last week that the video should be made public, prompting Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to move up her decision to charge the officer with first-degree murder. "I felt compelled in the interest of public safety to announce these state charges today," Alvarez said at a news conference Tuesday. Now that he's officially been charged, many people are wondering when Jason Van Dyke's trial will begin.
Van Dyke was ordered to be held without bail, at least until Monday, when a judge will view the dash-cam video. His lawyer, Dan Herbert, maintains that Van Dyke believes the shooting was justified because he feared for his life, and said at the hearing that the officer "absolutely" intends to go to trial, meaning he won't take a plea deal. Van Dyke faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Since it took 13 months for the former officer to be charged with murder, it's not likely that he'll have a speedy trial. It can take years for murder cases to actually go to trial, but because the Chicago shooting is such a high-profile case, there will be a lot of pressure to reach a conclusion from activists. Although a start date hasn't been announced yet, it's reasonable to estimate that Van Dyke's case will go to trial in about a year.
In the video of the shooting, McDonald is seen running and then walking in the middle of the street toward police cars with flashing lights before turning away. Holding a folding knife in his hand, he falls to the ground after being struck by multiple bullets. In a 15-second span, McDonald was shot 16 times by Van Dyke. According to Alvarez, Van Dyke had been at the scene for less than 30 seconds and out of his car for six seconds before he opened fire.
"Video by nature is two-dimensional and it distorts images," Herbert told CNN on Wednesday. "So what appears to be clear on a video sometimes is not always that clear."
The trial will determine whether or not Van Dyke was acting out of fear for his life and the lives of the other officers nearby. He was on administrative leave since the incident and was moved to no-pay status after charged with murder.