Decision looms for Chicago officer: to testify or not

  • Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens during during his first degree murder trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 in Chicago. (Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool) Antonio Perez

  • Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke rubs his eyes during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 in Chicago. (Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool) Antonio Perez

Associated Press
Published: 9/28/2018 5:44:44 PM

Answering the question of what white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was thinking when he shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times will be crucial for jurors once they start deliberating on a verdict at his murder trial. And there’s only one person who knows for sure what the officer was thinking: the officer himself.

As the trial enters its third week on Monday, a decision about whether Officer Jason Van Dyke will testify looms. The presiding judge could ask the 40-year-old Van Dyke in the coming week for a definitive answer.

Lawyers for clients who aren’t police officers typically advise against testifying because it opens them up to potentially devastating cross-examination. But it’s not obvious whether the right legal strategy for officers, like Van Dyke, is to stay off the witness stand.

If he testifies, Van Dyke’s biggest challenge will be countering evidence at the core of the state’s case: dashcam video of Van Dyke firing at McDonald at night on Oct. 20, 2014, as the 17-year-old seems to walk away from police while holding a knife. Van Dyke continues to fire shot after shot for at least 10 seconds after the teen crumples to the ground.

“But I think he has to get up there and testify,” said Phil Turner, a federal prosecutor-turned-Chicago defense attorney who is not working on Van Dyke’s case. “I think it will improve his chances of an acquittal dramatically.”

Others say the potential pros of testifying don’t outweigh the cons.

“It’s always a crapshoot to put a defendant on the stand. In this case, I wouldn’t do it,” Joseph Lopez, another Chicago criminal lawyer not associated with the case.

In several similar trials elsewhere in the U.S. in recent years, officers have testified. Some who did were acquitted or the juries couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy