As the murder trial for Jason Van Dyke for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald gets underway in Chicago, prosecutors and defense lawyers are arguing over jury selection. Specifically, prosecutors have reportedly claimed that African Americans are being excluded from the jury.
So far, the trial has only one African-American juror, who was chosen Wednesday (Sept. 12). The juror is a Black woman who appears to be in her 50s and works at Fed-Ex, according to the Chicago Tribune. However, half of the jury is white, while three are Latino, one Black and one person of Asian descent.
In a case that has produced national unrest and dialogues over police brutality being motivated by racial bias, communities of color are watching this trial.
A conviction rests on a jury or judge in the case, with the defenses also able to choose a bench trial before the swearing-in of a 12th juror. As of now, prosecutors have focused on jury selection, saying that African Americans are being systemically kept away from the case. Defense lawyers struck Black jurors from the case during two trial days, the Tribune reported. Defense lawyers have disputed the prosecutors’ argument, creating a counter-narrative that white men have been booted from the jury.
Activists and communities of color have protested for justice for McDonald, pushing for a trial which could lead to a first-degree murder conviction for Van Dyke. The former Chicago Police Department officer fatally shot McDonald 16 times in 2014, and cops released the shooting video in 2015 after a court order. The CPD faced allegations of covering up the shooting, with their account contradicting what dashboard camera video showed was McDonald trying to walk away from Van Dyke.
The former officer is on trial for six counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery and one count of official misconduct in McDonald’s death.