Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s lawyer on Wednesday solidified his intent to seek a change of venue in the high-profile case of his client who is accused of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Defense attorney Dan Herbert formally told Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan that he planned to file a motion seeking a change of venue.
The move raises the possibility that jurors from a location outside of Cook County could be brought in to Gaughan’s courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse to decide Van Dyke’s fate. Or the trial to could be moved to another county altogether.
The purpose of a change of venue would be to find jurors who are not tainted by the case, which has received wide spread media coverage, sparked repeated street protests and triggered a Justice Department investigation that resulted in a scathing review of the practices of the Chicago Police Department, where reforms are ongoing and controversial.
The legal maneuver is no surprise. In June of last year, before a gag order was in place preventing attorneys from chatting to reporters, Herbert indicated his intention to seek a change of venue and pointed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in explaining why.
“Exhibit A is going to be the mayor and his comments,” Herbert said at the time.
Rahm Emanuel “has essentially told everyone in the public, everyone in the City Council that my client actually murdered Mr. McDonald, and [that] he’s a bad apple and that he doesn’t belong in the police department and he committed acts that were indefensible,” Herbert said.
Emanuel had no comment at the time and a representative from his office did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, Gaughan heard arguments on whether comments Van Dyke made shortly after McDonald’s death to representatives of his police union are protected under state law from being used against him in
Gaughan did not issue a ruling on the matter and scheduled another hearing for Aug. 11.
Van Dyke, who has been charged with first-degree murder, fired 16 shots at McDonald in 2014, claiming the teen was moving toward him and his partner when he opened fire. Harrowing dashcam video shows McDonald walking away from the officers while holding a knife.
Three other officers who were at the scene are charged in a separate pending criminal case, accused of lying about the circumstances of the shooting to protect Van Dyke.
Joseph McMahon, the Kane County state’s attorney who was appointed special prosecutor in the murder case against Van Dyke, filed two subpoenas on Wednesday.
One calls for the recordings of phone calls Van Dyke made while in Cook County Jail.
Van Dyke spent six nights in jail in late 2015, where he was held in protective custody before he was released on bond.
The other subpoena filed Wednesday calls for the testimony of Kriston Kato, one of the police union reps who spoke with Van Dyke after McDonald’s death.