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Lawyer: Jason Van Dyke should be excused from status hearings

Indicted Police officer Jason Van Dyke, right, and his attorney Dan Herbert, left, sit in the courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Nancy Stone/Pool/Chicago Tribune)

The lawyer for Jason Van Dyke is asking that his client be excused from appearing at status hearings for his murder case due to the press’ alleged interference and threats the Chicago Police officer has purportedly received when coming and going from the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Van Dyke has had people flash gang signs at him, spew out racial slurs such as “white devil” and has had protesters blast the sounds of sirens so close to him, it makes it hard for him to hear those who accompany him to court, according to a four-page motion filed by defense attorney Daniel Herbert.

Indicted Police officer Jason Van Dyke, along with his attorneys, stands in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan in the courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Nan
Indicted Police officer Jason Van Dyke, along with his attorneys, stands in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan in the courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Nancy Stone/Pool/Chicago Tribune)

Herbert’s motion also claims that the media is as intimidating as the activists and passersby are to Van Dyke, who is accused of shooting teenager Laquan McDonald sixteen times in 2014.

Journalists have joined others in blocking 37-year-old Van Dyke’s entry to the courthouse, “grabbing at him and attempting to pull him into large crowds,” according to the motion, which was presented to Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on Wednesday.

Once a cameraman blocked Van Dyke’s father from going into a revolving door and shoved him, the motion said. Another time, Van Dyke’s father almost “lost his balance” and fell when members of media allegedly shoved and grabbed him.

Van Dyke’s supporters have also been hit by equipment wielded by the press, according to the motion, which says that the officer’s “personal safety has been jeopardized.” On the last court date in January, a supporter of Van Dyke’s had to be hospitalized because of an injury to the head, the motion said.

Indicted Police officer Jason Van Dyke walks in the courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Nancy Stone/Pool/Chicago Tribune)
Indicted Police officer Jason Van Dyke walks in the courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Nancy Stone/Pool/Chicago Tribune)

There were no protesters or activists seen inside the courthouse on Wednesday, and Van Dyke went through the front doors without incident.

While Herbert said he didn’t see his client walk out, he reiterated that there has been “intense scrutiny and threats” every time Van Dyke enters and leaves the building at 26th and California.

“We’re still amazed at the appetite and the venom towards my client,” Herbert told reporters.

“He remains public enemy No. 1.”

Of those who see Van Dyke as a pariah was an individual who allegedly shouted out to the officer, “I am going to kill you, I am going to f— you up. I hope you get raped or killed in prison. You are a racist.”

Van Dyke’s father was “physically battered” during a previous courthouse visit, Herbert said.

The older man’s truck was also damaged by a protester, and Van Dyke and others with him were spit on and chased by other motorists as they attempted to drive off, the motion said.

Daniel Herbert, an attorney for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to reporters after a status hearing on the murder case on Wednesday / Rummana Hussain for the Sun-Times
Daniel Herbert, an attorney for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to reporters after a status hearing on the murder case on Wednesday / Rummana Hussain for the Sun-Times

Herbert said he is perplexed at the “selective outrage” against Van Dyke. Politicians don’t appear to have the same rage for alleged cop killers and the accused gunman of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, the defense attorney said.

“The violence toward my client is affecting him,” Herbert said.

Earlier, Gaughan briefly discussed petitions from civil rights attorneys and the Rev. Jesse Jackson that seek a special prosecutor to handle the Van Dyke case before going into his chambers with the prosecutors and defense attorneys for an “informal case management conference.”

After roughly a half hour, the group came out, and Gaughan asked Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier to describe what took place behind closed doors.

Lanier said prosecutors were made aware that Herbert received several discs tied to the case from federal officials.

Van Dyke is expected to come back to court on May 5.