CHICAGO (AP) — A judge overseeing the murder trial of a Chicago police officer in the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Friday decided to hold off deciding whether the trial’s location should be changed.
Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan said he will wait until jury selection to determine if a fair jury can be chosen for the trial of Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke’s lawyers want the trial, scheduled to begin Sept. 5, moved out of Cook County. They say a jury chosen in the county would be swayed by the publicity surrounding the case.
Video released in 2015 shows Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. The shooting has prompted protests and federal inquiries into the Chicago Police Department.
Defense attorney Daniel Herbert says too many people in Cook County have formed opinions on Van Dyke’s guilt or innocence in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
“As this court knows, we don’t have to prove anything, but in a case like this, with a Cook County jury, the burden is on the defendant,” Herbert said.
Herbert said a defense expert found 87 percent of people in Cook County have an opinion in the case, and 74 percent of those polled believe Van Dyke is guilty.
Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon countered that the defense’s polling was “manipulated.”
According to McMahon, a prosecution expert found as many as 3.4 million people in Cook County could serve as unbiased jurors, because they either have never heard of the case, or because they would be able to reach a verdict based only on the evidence presented at trial and the judge’s instructions.
“You have very efficiently implemented numerous precautions to make sure we can select a fair jury,” McMahon said.
Van Dyke’s lawyers filed a motion requesting that someone other than Gaughan decide the change-of-venue motion. The presiding judge of Cook County Circuit Court’s criminal division on Tuesday rejected the request.
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