COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The three Chicago Police officers accused of helping cover up the 2014 Laquan McDonald shooting were assigned a new trial judge Tuesday.
Special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes late last week filed a motion seeking to replace Cook County Judge Diane Gordon Cannon, who was assigned the case at random last Monday. Cannon replaced the first assigned judge, Mary Margaret Brosnahan, who recused herself without explanation.
Starting Tuesday, Judge Domenica Stephenson will handle the case.
Cannon made headlines in 2015 for acquitting Cmdr. Glenn Evans on charges he shoved a gun down a man's throat, held a Taser to his groin and threatened to kill him during a January 2013 altercation.
Officials found the man's DNA on Evans' gun — a fact Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Laura Freeman said was not only "a smoking gun" in the case, "It's a smoking freaking cannon."
Following a three-day bench trial, Cannon said the DNA evidence was "of fleeting relevance or significance" to the case. She noted multiple inconsistencies in the alleged victim's testimony and pointed out that he was seeking $5 million in a pending civil suit at the time.
Stephan Blandin, Williams' attorney in that suit, balked at the acquittal, which was announced in December 2015: "How do you ignore DNA evidence? I suppose these days we have presidential candidates that are ignoring science, so why shouldn't the judge?"
Former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney appeared before Stephenson on Tuesday morning for a brief status hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave.
The trio is next slated to appear in court Aug. 29.
All three men pleaded not guilty last week to charges of official misconduct, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Holmes — who was tasked last year with investigating officers on the scene with Jason Van Dyke the night he fatally shot McDonald 16 times — said in a two-page motion she wanted to replace Cannon because the judge was "prejudiced against the state." (READ THE FULL MOTION BELOW)
Holmes declined to elaborate further. Cannon agreed to the substitution Tuesday.
According to prosecutors, March, Walsh, Gaffney and Van Dyke (identified in last month's indictment only as "Individual A") conspired immediately after the Oct. 20, 2014, slaying "to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald ... to shield their fellow officer [Individual A] from criminal investigation and prosecution."
March, Walsh and Gaffney are accused of "mischaracterizing the video recordings" of the shooting and lying about McDonald's behavior before the incident, according to Holmes' office.
Van Dyke, 39, was charged in 2015 with first-degree murder and official misconduct. He was indicted earlier this year on an additional 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
McDonald had been stealing truck radios and was armed with a three-inch blade on Oct. 20, 2014, when Police Department officers in Archer Heights called in a radio request for a Taser, prosecutors have said. An autopsy found that McDonald had PCP in his system.
Van Dyke and his partner responded to the call, but never specified whether they had a Taser. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke pulled his gun and emptied his magazine into McDonald, shooting him 16 times.
READ THE FULL MOTION HERE: