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Judge tapped to hear special prosecutor request in Van Dyke case

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke appears at a hearing on the killing of Laquan McDonald Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, in front of Judge Vincent Michael Gaughan at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune, pool) ORG XMIT: 2451182

Chief Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. ruled Friday that Judge Vincent Gaughan will handle two petitions seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor related to Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke murder case.

Martin had said consolidating the petitions filed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and civil rights attorneys would be “prudent” and would be in the interest of “judicial economy.”

Locke Bowman and G. Flint Taylor had wanted Martin to preside over matters related to their amended petition, which now seeks a special prosecutor to examine whether other police officers who were at the scene of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s shooting could be criminally charged.

Jackson’s petition specifically seeks the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the prosecution of Van Dyke.

Prosecutors this week said they favored Gaughan dealing with the petitions since he is presiding over the case of Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014.

If the cases aren’t consolidated it “runs the risk of having divergent rulings by the court,” Martin said Friday.

The petitions argue that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez cannot prosecute Van Dyke because of her close relationship with the police union and her failure to hold police officers accountable.

Alvarez on Tuesday was handily defeated in her bid for re-election amid criticism of how she responded to Van Dyke’s case.

Last month, the top prosecutor put out a statement that read, in part, “It is clear that there is no legal conflict in this case, and prosecution will proceed to hold Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald.”