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Laquan McDonald murder case: Final hearing set before trial begins Sept. 5

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke attends a hearing Friday. | Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune | Pool photo

After coming to the courthouse at least once a month for the past three years — and sometimes multiple times in a week— Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke’s next trip to the Leighton Criminal Court Building will come a day before he goes to trial for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

At a hearing Monday, Judge Vincent Gaughan on set Van Dyke’s next court date for Sept. 4. Jury selection is set to begin the following day.

Several key decisions remain until after jury selection begins: Gaughan has not ruled on Van Dyke’s request to move the trial outside of Cook County, and won’t make a ruling until after jury selection has started. And while the defense has taken steps in apparent preparation to try the case in front of a jury — including by seeking to have the case moved to another jurisdiction — Van Dyke’s lawyers can opt for a bench trial even after jury selection has begun.

The trial is set to take as long as three weeks, not including picking the jury, which could take days to complete.

Monday’s hearing included rulings that will allow prosecutors to play video of Van Dyke firing 16 shots at McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014, but won’t allow the defense to play “reenactments” of the shooting.

Gaughan also ruled that defense lawyers cannot ask other police officers at the scene about whether they think Van Dyke was justified in opening fire; Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, will be allowed to testify about why he also didn’t fire at McDonald, but not whether Van Dyke should have, the judge ruled.

The defense also will be allowed to introduce McDonald’s school records. Dan Herbert, Van Dyke’s lead attorney, said they had reason to believe McDonald had been “kicked out of school” the day of the shooting.