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Laquan McDonald’s mother comes to courthouse for hearing

Laquan McDonald's mother, Tina Hunter, walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday afternoon, Aug. 16, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Laquan McDonald’s mother came to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday, where she was questioned by lawyers for the Chicago police officer charged with her son’s murder.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan cleared the courtroom for Tina Hunter’s testimony, and his ruling on whether or not she will have to take the witness stand at Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial will not be known until the trial opens in September.

For weeks, Van Dyke’s lawyers had been trying to subpoena Hunter as a witness to help build their case that Van Dyke was acting in self-defense when he fired 16 shots at McDonald, 17.

Hunter, who received a $5 million payout from the city in connection with the shooting, has kept a low profile, even as her son’s death prompted waves of protests across the city.

Laquan McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, walks with Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday morning, Aug. 16, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Laquan McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, walks with Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday morning, Aug. 16, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

She had been slated to appear at a court hearing last month, but did not show up, claiming she had been unable to find child care for a newborn child. Hunter entered the courthouse around 11 a.m., carrying an infant and walking alongside McMahon. She was then ushered into Gaughan’s chambers.

Van Dyke’s lawyers said they had been unable to serve her with a subpoena, though it was clear that she had been in communication with Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon’s office, which had been trying to arrange her appearance.

On Tuesday, Gaughan said if Hunter didn’t come to court on Thursday, she would not be allowed to attend the trial.

Van Dyke’s lawyers are seeking to get her on the stand during the trial, to provide testimony about acts of violence committed by her son well before he encountered Van Dyke the night of the 2014 shooting. Such witnesses can only be called when the defense is asserting a murder defendant was acting in self-defense.

Gaughan has sealed the courtroom for other witnesses offering similar testimony, seeking to keep evidence that might not be allowed in at trial out of the public. The judge also has stated concern that they might face ostracism in their neighborhoods it was publicly known that they had been called to testify — even unwillingly — in Van Dyke’s defense.