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Jason Van Dyke's Attorney Wants To Move Trial Away From Cook County

By Erica Demarest | July 19, 2017 2:40pm | Updated on July 21, 2017 11:25am
 Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
Jason Van Dyke
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COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — An attorney for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke said Wednesday he wants to move the high-profile trial out of Cook County.

During a routine status hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., defense attorney Daniel Hebert told a judge he plans to file a change-of-venue motion in coming months.

While a long-standing gag order prevented Herbert from speaking further Wednesday, the attorney has long said he doesn't believe Van Dyke — who is charged with murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 — will receive a fair trial or impartial jury in Chicago.

Herbert has complained frequently about demonstrators approaching Van Dyke with signs and taunts during mandated court appearances.

RELATED: Signs, Scowls Jeopardize Officer Jason Van Dyke's Safety At Court, He Says

But according to Jerry Norton, a longtime professor who specializes in criminal law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, moving the trial might not be that easy.

If Herbert were to cite protestors as a reason to switch trial venues, Norton speculated, "My guess is the judge would say that that's just a matter of gaining control [in the courtroom]. I suspect given the emotions in this case, a lot of the protestors will travel to another county."

Norton said it's common for defense attorneys to seek new venues, but that those requests are rarely granted.

Hebert would need to convince trial Judge Vincent Gaughan that Cook County citizens are so wholly prejudiced against Van Dyke that it would be impossible to select an impartial jury. Herbert could cite prolific or biased media coverage of the case, Norton said, or commission a statistical study of public opinion on Van Dyke across the county.

"It's not an easy thing to show," Norton said. "... It's an uphill battle for the defense."

Herbert's plan suggests Van Dyke will seek a jury trial. Other Chicago Police officers accused of wrongdoing — including Cmdr. Glenn Evans and Officer Dante Servin, both of whom were acquitted — have opted for bench trials.

RELATED: Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans Not Guilty in Alleged Abuse Case

RELATED: Officer Who Killed Rekia Boyd Not Guilty on All Charges, Judge Rules

Van Dyke, 39, is charged with first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery with a firearm for fatally shooting McDonald 16 times in 2014. The teen was armed with a 3-inch blade and stealing truck radios when Chicago police officers in Archer Heights called in a request for a Taser on Oct. 20, 2014, prosecutors said.

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

Video of the shooting, which was released via court order in November 2015, sparked citywide protests that shut down the Mag Mile.

Van Dyke testified publicly for the first time last month as part of an evidentiary hearing. He is currently free on bond and suspended without pay from the Chicago Police Department until his criminal case is resolved.

RELATED: Jason Van Dyke Testifies About Laquan McDonald Shooting Aftermath

Late last month, special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes brought charges against three Chicago Police officers accused of helping cover up the McDonald shooting: former Det. David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney.

RELATED: 'Code Of Silence': 3 Officers Indicted In Alleged Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

All three men are charged with conspiracy, misconduct and obstruction of justice. Each pleaded not guilty last week. Their trial judge is Judge Domenica Stephenson, who was assigned to the case Tuesday after Holmes filed a motion to replace Judge Diane Cannon, who'd been randomly selected as trial judge last week.