CHICAGO (CBS) — Angry at waiting more than two years so far to see Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke go on trial for murder in the shooting of Laquan McDonald, protesters demanded the judge set a trial date on Wednesday, but the judge said there is more pretrial work to do, and the case “will go to trial when it’s fair.”
Van Dyke was wearing a bulletproof vest when armed police escorted him into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for another status hearing in the case. Once inside, he and his father shed their vests and settled in for a hearing covering a variety of pretrial issues.
Meantime, a group of protesters had gathered outside the courtroom to demand a speedy trial, noting Van Dyke was first charged more than two years ago, but no trial date has been set.
Van Dyke was indicted for first-degree murder in November 2015 for shooting McDonald in October 2014. He wasn’t charged until after the release of police dashcam video that contradicted initial reports that McDonald had lunged at police with a knife. The video shows McDonald walking away from Van Dyke when he opened fire, shooting the teenager 16 times.
Activist William Calloway said the community is tired of waiting for Van Dyke to face trial.
“Our patience has been fully exhausted. We have been peaceful. We have marched and protested and raised this issue peacefully,” he said. “It’s time for this man to face the music, and we demand that a trial be set.”
In court, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan said he was not yet prepared to set a trial date, and noted the massive amount of documents involved in the case, which is the first murder case against a Chicago police officer for an on-duty shooting in more than 30 years.
“Has anybody kept track of how many documents? We had 300,000 emails,” Gaughan said. “I mean, people have to understand that, and this is not going to be run by the public saying we have to do this, or representatives, or minor representatives of the public saying it has to go to trial. It will go to trial when it’s fair.”
The judge said scheduling issues would be discussed in the case Thursday afternoon, but it was not immediately clear if he would set a trial date then.
Protesters said the long wait for a trial is causing the public to forget what happened. They also said taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent escorting Van Dyke in and out of the courthouse.
Van Dyke’s attorneys also are seeking a change of venue for the trial, arguing the officer can’t get a fair trial in Cook County. They have said the media coverage of the case has tainted the jury pool in Cook County. Gaughan indicated he’ll likely rule on the change of venue motion in April.
Attorneys for several media outlets also filed a motion during the hearing asking Gaughan to lift a gag order in the case.