COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Prosecutors working to build a first-degree murder case against Jason Van Dyke are allowed to use the Chicago Police officer's own written reports during the investigation, a Cook County Judge ruled Friday.
Defense attorney Daniel Herbert argued the reports should be considered "compelled statements" — or those an officer is required to make at the risk of losing his job. A 1967 Supreme Court ruling deemed such statements inadmissible in criminal proceedings.
As such, Herbert argued, prosecutors should not be allowed access to Van Dyke's written reports, which were filed after Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.
Judge Vincent Gaughan countered that police officer's written reports cannot be considered compelled — "otherwise the whole system would collapse. If [all police reports] were considered protected material, nobody would ever be able to be arrested."
The judge granted special prosecutor Joseph McMahon permission to use two of Van Dyke's reports in the state's investigation.
Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon (left) and defense attorney Daniel Herbert (right) argue a motion May 24. [Chicago Tribune/Nancy Stone]
The Kane County state's attorney — who was brought in after former Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez recused herself last year — will also have access to statements made by five Chicago Police officers who were on the scene when McDonald was killed, Gaughan said.
The defense team "says all information from the five officers should be put in a lock box," Gaughan said. "That's not my interpretation. The state could use those arguments as investigative clues."
Prosecutors are allowed to do just that. While the officers' five statements and Van Dyke's two written reports are fair game during the state's investigation — neither set of information can be used at trial without first being permitted by a judge, Gaughan said.
McMahon is still seeking permission to access, for investigatory purposes, two statements Van Dyke made to superior officers in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 shooting. A hearing on that matter is slated for June 26.
Last month, Gaughan denied a motion filed by Herbert to dismiss the indictment against Van Dyke. Gaughan in April denied Van Dyke's request to skip routine hearings due to potential harassment from demonstrators.
According to prosecutors, McDonald was stealing truck radios and was armed with a 3-inch blade when Chicago police officers in Archer Heights called in a request for a Taser on Oct. 20, 2014.
Van Dyke and his partner responded to the call, but never specified whether they had a Taser available to them. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke pulled his gun and emptied his clip into McDonald, shooting the teen 16 times.