FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dijk, charged with murder in the shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald 2014, listens during a hearing at the Leighton criminal court Building in Chicago. Lawyers are expected to start questioning potential jurors in Van Dijk’s trial on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)
CHICAGO – Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. If the pace of the procedure on the first day was any indication, then it may be a while before testimony begins.
In the late afternoon, lawyers representing Officer Jason Van Dijk and prosecutors agreed that the four people sitting in the jury. The first two were the women’s, Hispanic, a mother of three young children, who said she could be fair and respects police officers, and a white woman who works as a record keeper and said that she wanted to proof to form an opinion.
Later in the day, two men were selected: an Asian financial analysts who said on his questionnaire that everyone, even the police must follow the law, and a white man who is gay and said he doesn’t know much about the case.
Prosecutors and lawyers for the Officer Jason Van Dijk agreed on two jurors, a white woman who said she worked as a record keeper and wanted to see the evidence to form an opinion and a Spanish mother of three young children, who said she could be fair and respects the police.
“I think they’re just doing their job,” the Spanish woman told the court.
Others, however, acknowledged that it would be difficult to be fair and impartial, because of what they know about the 2014 shoot. The release of the dashcam footage of van Dijk repeatedly shoot McDonald that the police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought to prevent private caused great outrage and led to large protests and the firing of Chicago and the police-inspector.
And with the lawyers and the Judge, Vincent Gaughan, the increase of the possibility that the judge would be able to sequester jurors during a trial that last for weeks, it also seems likely that the driver of the truck who told the judge that sitting on a jury would hurt his ability to make a living will not be the last candidate-judges to be dismissed for hardship reasons.
The question that most dominated Monday morning is a procedure that is about honesty. A woman, for example, said that she thought that after the shooting, there was a “cover-up and trying to protect, the police and the mayor.”
Although they are not exhaustive, Van Dijk was not charged with the first degree murder until the day the video was released, that was more than a year after the shooting. Since then, the other officers on the scene are charged with lying on their reports in what prosecutors say was an effort to cover up what happened on the protecting Dike.
“With any other case I would say yes,” she said, when he asked her if she could make her feeling aside and be fair to Van Dijk. “With this case, I would have to say no.”
A bartender who was dismissed for hardship reasons after explaining that he only gets paid if he shows up for work said that he thought that the firing of the 16 times it was too much.” Another man, when he was asked if he could set aside what he knows about the case and to be impartial, looked on, Van Dijk, and said simply: “No.”
Van Dijk’s lead lawyer, Dan Herbert, also suggested that the members of the jury will be under the intense pressure of the public opinion. He asked one prospective juror about a potential reaction in her neighbourhood if they voted to acquit Van Dijk, Gaughan quickly told Herbert “knock off”. But the question is point to how stressful it can be to sit on a jury in a case that has provoked intense feelings in Chicago and in the country.
For the protection of the members of the jury during the procedure, which is guarded by a small group of reporters, the names, exact ages and hometowns of the potential jurors were not disclosed. And the judge warned lawyers that if they mention the name of a candidate-member of the jury, they can be fined or even imprisoned.
The tenor of Monday the procedure also indicated that the trial is controversial. When, for example, Herbert tried to bring his pending motion to move the trial of Chicago, the judge got angry and told him to stop or he was going to hold him in contempt for “impeding the administration of justice.” When Herbert protested that he was only trying to get his notes “on the album,” the judge angrily warned him, “You keep talking and you’re going for a record.”