16 shots powerful fact in Van Dyke case, but not only one

SHARE 16 shots powerful fact in Van Dyke case, but not only one
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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke takes in the trial as it begins in earnest Monday with opening statements. | Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune pool photo

The jurors who began hearing testimonyMondayin the trial of police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder trial of Laquan McDonald are duty-bound to wait for all the evidence before making up their minds.

Is it asking too much for the rest of us to do the same?

The four-year lead up to this trial has made us all experts about what happened on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, although a lot of those experts stopped processing new information after seeing the video and learning Van Dyke fired 16 shots.

Sixteen shots is obviously an important fact in the case, a very powerful fact. But it’s not the only one.

In fact, a good argument can be made that if this was indeed murder, it had to be murder after the first shot.

And as compelling as the video is, it doesn’t tell the story from the point of view of Van Dyke, which jurors will have to take into account before rendering a verdict.

Those 16 shots turned into at least 160 in courtMonday, maybe even 320, as the squad car camera showed McDonald going down over and over and over.

What I found most striking during aboutMonday’sopening volleys was the contradictory depictions of the threat posed by McDonald before he was killed.

Prosecutors portrayed McDonald as no threat at all, while defense attorneys drew a picture of a rampaging menace.

The truth would seem somewhere in between. An angry, knife-wielding young man on the street who won’t listen to police is a serious danger, but not so much a danger — as perceived by other officers on the street that night — to necessitate shooting him until the moment Van Dyke did so.

Before jurors took their seatsMonday, lawyers hashed out whether to move the case outside Cook County on the argument Van Dyke can’t get a fair trial here because of pretrial publicity and a fear of violence if the police officer is acquitted.

Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Cullen countered that the people of Cook County have a right to hold the trial here.

Answered defense lawyer Daniel Herbert: “This is like Pontius Pilate sacrificing individuals to the angry mob. I can’t believe we’re even arguing this.”

Judge Vincent Gaughan brusquely cut him off before denying the motion.

Gaughan said his experience from other high-profile cases tells him the jurors will be fair.

“I have faith in the citizens of Cook County,” the judge said.

I do, too, and I’m really, really glad that I’m not in their shoes.

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