CHICAGO (CBS) — Two alternate jurors who were dismissed from the Jason Van Dyke trial after the jury began deliberations said they likely would have voted to convict the officer of murder if it had been up to them.
The jurors, who spoke to reporters off camera Thursday afternoon, were identified only as Juror 255, a male, and Juror 256, a female.
“I would have said guilty” the male juror said. “For me, he [Van Dyke] should have waited a little bit longer. I mean, he knew that a Taser was coming. That’s what did it for me.”
The female juror also said she was leaning toward a guilty verdict, and said the fact no other officers saw a need to shoot Laquan McDonald was a significant factor for her.
“I think the fact that other officers had encountered him, Laquan McDonald, that night, and they didn’t feel the need to use deadly force,” she said.
The infamous dashboard camera video also was a key piece of evidence for the jurors. Juror 256 said it was clear from the video that McDonald was trying to walk away from police.
“Seeing the video, and having that be such a huge part of the evidence in this case, and being referred to so many times, actually seeing how Laquan McDonald was avoiding and trying to get away from the situation,” she said.
The female juror also said the defense’s arguments that McDonald was on a PCP-fueled “rampage” before Van Dyke shot him didn’t hold water. She said Van Dyke didn’t know the details about what McDonald had been doing before he arrived at the scene.
“I think that, whatever he [McDonald] had been doing that night before really doesn’t come into play with what happened in that last couple of seconds of his life, because Jason Van Dyke didn’t know if he had smoked PCP. It was the situation at hand when Jason Van Dyke came on the scene, and I think that that’s what we need to focus on,” she said.
The female juror also revealed at least one defense witness might have backfired for Van Dyke. She said Miguel DeJesus, a detention center employee who testified about an encounter with McDonald nine months before the shooting, humanized McDonald for her, rather than showing him to be someone with a history of violence.
“It was the first time that anybody had talked about Laquan McDonald, and made him seem human,” she said.
Juror 256 noted DeJesus testified McDonald freely admitted to being on drugs, and – unlike other teens – remembered his name and referred to him as “Mr. DeJesus.”
“I think that people wanted to put Laquan McDonald on trial here, and it was good to hear that he was respectful. He may not have made the right choices sometimes, but he was respectful,” she said. “This man talked about him with a smile on his face, so that stuck with me.”
Both jurors also agreed the 16 shots Van Dyke fired that night were evidence Van Dyke used excessive force.
“He went on the ground quick, within two seconds,” the male juror said. “So I thought it was a little excessive”
The female juror also cited the fact Van Dyke acknowledged he paused briefly after firing his first volley, and reassessed the situation, before firing again after McDonald was on the ground, because he was still moving.
“I don’t know what else you could call that except for excessive force, in my opinion,” she said.
While the case is one of the most closely watched trials in the city’s history, the jurors said they did not feel any pressure due to the publicity.
However, Juror 255 made it clear he was glad the trial is over for him.
“It just went on for too long for me, but it was an experience; something different,” he said.