CHICAGO (CBS) —Not guilty on all charges.
That was the verdict Thursday for three Chicago officers who were accused of trying to cover up the shooting death of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald.
There were tears of joy for the supporters of the officers in the courtroom. But for others, there were gasps. For many this was about the police “code of silence.” But for this judge it was about honest mistakes.
Officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joe Walsh and former detective David March all appeared stoic early on. But the judge gradually picked apart the state’s case.
Prosecutors said that the officers lied about Laquan McDonald lunging at Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke before he fired the 16 shots.
“The recovered videos do not show the vantage point of Van Dyke, Walsh or others who were either facing or to the side of McDonald,” said Judge Domenica Stephenson. “It is borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move with the knife in his hand after he fell to the ground. This is not proof of a conspiracy, official misconduct or obstruction of justice beyond a reasonable doubt. This court finds that the state has failed to meet its burden on all charges. Therefore this is a finding of not guilty as to every count.”
For the three officers, it is a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. And a great relief for their families.
“Heart-wrenching. Heartbreaking for my family,” said ex-officer Joe Walsh.
“The state failed miserably,” said attorney Jim McKay. “Whatever anyone says on the streets, whatever the press wants to write about, the truth happened in that courtroom.”
Prosecutors said the hope is that the case put a crack in the wall of the “code of silence,” but the judge said that the prosecution’s star witness, officer Dora Fontaine, who had a different version of events the night Laquan McDonald was killed, that her version was not credible.