People hoping to attend Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial will have to sign up in person at the courthouse a day in advance, under a registration process announced late Friday afternoon.
The requirements were released at 2:37 p.m. — giving potential spectators for Monday’s opening statements a little over three hours to travel to the courthouse at 26th and California to sign up before the close of business.
“We’re sure there are going to be a few bumps in the road on Monday,” said Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. “We’re going to do our best to help people who show up Monday while staying in compliance with Judge [Vincent] Gaughan’s order.”
Under the decorum order imposed by Gaughan in the high-profile Laquan McDonald case, “clothing with prejudicial or inflammatory logos, insignias or paraphernalia are prohibited.” A woman who attended jury selection last week was booted from the courtroom for wearing a shirt with the words “Jason Van Dyke? Murder.”
Community organizer William Calloway, who obtained the city permit for protesters outside the courthouse, said he didn’t think there was “any malice” behind the short notice given by officials as the heater case goes to arguments.
“I think everything was predicated on when opening statements were going to be or if there’d be a change of venue,” Calloway said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to get everybody for Monday on short notice, but we’re gonna do our best to disseminate the info released by the sheriff today in hopes that community members who want to attend the trial have that opportunity.”
It’s not clear how many seats will be available to the public. Smith said “limited” first-come, first-served seating would be reserved in the courtroom and an overflow room with a live video feed — both of which will also be swarmed with media covering the case, which has drawn national attention.
Spectators must be 16 or older and register in person with a valid government ID at the courthouse lobby between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. the day before they want to sit in court.
They’re then advised to show up an hour before the trial begins to allow for time to get through security — and they must be seated in court 15 minutes before proceedings begin.
The list of prohibited items includes “electronic devices of any kind, including cellphones, bags, packages, briefcases, purses, coats, boxes, any other kind of containers, notebooks, paper, pens and pencils.”
The judge has also warned that anyone “causing a disruption, outburst, noise or distraction will immediately be removed from the trial courtroom,” and could face fines or possible jailing in contempt of court.