Van Dyke arraigned, pleads not guilty
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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke Tuesday pleaded not guilty to murder and official misconduct charges for the deadly shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
After Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan was selected to preside over the officer’s case, Van Dyke’s attorney Daniel Herbert entered his client’s plea as a roomful of reporters looked on.
Several members of the press loudly protested after the brief hearing when learning that a single video camera in Courtroom 101 did not capture Van Dyke’s arraignment.
It was unclear what had transpired, but some said court personnel told a cameraman he wasn’t allowed to record to proceedings.
Minutes before, Chief Judge Leroy Martin Jr. said if Gaughan was OK with the camera, he could come down from his courtroom on the fifth floor to room 101 since equipment was already in place.
Gaughan came down a few minutes later.
Still and video pool cameras have been allowed for courtroom proceedings as part of a pilot program that started earlier this year. But judges presiding in the specific case ultimately decide whether they will be allowed.
Gaughan has presided over the R. Kelly child pornography trial and the murder trials of two men convicted of killing seven people at a suburban Brown’s Chicken restaurant.
He is often consulted by other Cook County judges on how to manage high-profile cases.
When Van Dyke, who is out on bond, walked into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse with a dark suit Tuesday morning, someone screamed out to him, calling him a “blue-eyed devil.”
Protests and national scrutiny followed last month’s release of the graphic video that shows Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times in the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street in October 2014.
McDonald’s great-uncle Marvin Hunter said he wants Van Dyke’s court hearings and trial to be televised “gavel to gavel,” because there is a culture in Cook County that allows police to “feel comfortable with killing African-American people.”
Hunter specifically pointed to the recent police-involved shooting of 55-year-old Bettie Jones and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier.
“You have to have some sense of comfortability within yourself to believe that you can do this without any kind of recourse from your actions, and I believe that the entire criminal justice system in the county of Cook is corrupt,” Hunter said.
Herbert said similar incidents that have been receiving media attention certainly do “not help” his client, but the defense attorney added that they shouldn’t affect Van Dyke’s case.
While Herbert said he considers Gaughan a “fair and honest” judge, he said he is still exploring the possibility of requesting that the case be heard outside the county.
In the meantime, Herbert is moving forward and said he received new evidence in the case on Tuesday.
Herbert said Van Dyke, 37, is “hanging in there” and is eager to get his story out, so he is not seen as a “cold-blooded killer.”
Unlike Van Dyke’s last court appearance, when the officer was jeered by a large crowd, Van Dyke on Tuesday was greeted by no organized protest — just a few onlookers and a media throng.
Surrounded by several supporters, he walked to the courthouse from a secure parking structure located across the street. “Here’s the blue-eyed devil everyone,” a man said as photographers and cameramen jostled for position for images of Van Dyke walking into the courthouse’s main entrance.
After his court appearance, Van Dyke left the building through a revolving door and remained mum in the face of questions as he walked briskly through a scrum of media to a car that was waiting for him a few paces away.
Van Dyke is expected back in court on Jan. 29.
Contributing: Mitch Dudek