The dashboard camera video of the Laquan McDonald shooting has been played countless times on television and the internet.
But jurors weighing in on Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial will also see a computer animation of the deadly 2014 incident prepared by the defense team.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on Tuesday ruled that the defense can play what were described in court as two, 45-second animations showing at least five of the 16 shots fired by Van Dyke at 17-year-old McDonald.
The animations were not played in court, and Gaughan was quick to chastise Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Cullen for describing them in detail ahead of the trial.
Before the judge cut him off, Cullen said the animations showed five shots, with the bullets’ trajectories traced with blue lines.
Cullen also pointed out that the renderings differed in small ways from the video and in a manner that could color the jury’s perception.
“We’ve looked at (the animations) and there are inaccuracies, but they’re subtle inaccuracies,” Cullen said.
Defense attorney Daniel Herbert was careful to point out that the digital movies were “animations” and not more detailed “simulations” of the shooting near the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road.
As animations, the videos will be used essentially only as visual aides during testimony by a witness, and jurors won’t be able to watch them in the jury room during deliberations as they would with the dashcam video or other evidence in the case.
A defense expert examined crime scene photos and the scene from the 2014 shooting and “used drones to have exact measurements of things,” Herbert said.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, lawyers for local media organizations filed a motion with the state Supreme Court, asking the high court for a second time for access to court records and to bar Gaughan from holding often lengthy off-the record meetings with lawyers in the case.
The media group, which includes the Chicago Sun-Times, in May filed a similar motion, seeking access to filings in the case, nearly all of which had been placed under seal by Gaughan.
Gaughan, who presided over the trial of R&B star R. Kelly among other high-profile cases, had initially placed tight restrictions on all records in the case and has barred lawyers from making public statements about the case outside court.
Soon after, the Supreme Court ordered Gaughan to end the practice of having all filings in the case kept in his courtroom, and to establish a protocol for providing public access to all but a handful of records.
Gaughan still has kept more than 30 filings in the case under seal.
“Key aspects of the proceedings remain shrouded in secrecy,” the motion states, noting the trial is set to open Sept. 5. “(Supreme Court) intervention is thus urgently needed to remedy the ongoing and repeated violations of the First Amendment and the public’s right to know.
The motion seeks to bar Gaughan from holding what the judge calls “informal case management conferences” with attorneys in the case, meetings that take place in his chambers with no court reporter or transcript, and which may last more than an hour.
The motion also seeks to undo an order Gaughan issued last month barring lawyer Gabriel Fuentes, who represents WBEZ, from speaking in court, citing the lawyer for making “interruptions” that disrupted court proceedings.