Jason Van Dyke doesn’t want to come to court because of protests
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Jason Van Dyke has endured torrents of abuse on his many trips to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in the year-plus since he was charged with the murder or Laquan McDonald, lawyers for the Chicago Police officer want him to be able to stay home for future court hearings.
The motion unsealed by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on Wednesday, was filed last Thursday, at hearing at which the judge gave a lengthy speech on courtroom decorum, stating that defendants should not have to “run a (gantlet)” on their way in and out of the courthouse. The judge also threatened contempt charges against a woman who held up a notebook-sized sign as Van Dyke walked to an elevator while leaving court.
Van Dyke last week entered court in the same, often slow-moving security line as all non-employees, but was escorted from the courtroom and out of the building by a group of four sheriff’s deputies. His next trip to the courthouse is scheduled for May 25.
Van Dyke last spring made a similar request that included a long list of incidents, including being shouted at by McDonald’s mother; being called a “white devil” by protesters; and that his father’s truck had been damaged by protesters.
Crowds have waned significantly at Van Dyke’s almost monthly trips to court since he was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015, and video of Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into the 17-year-old McDonald stirred outrage across the city. The motion notes that state law is not clear on when defendants must be present in criminal trials, and federal rules require the defendant attend only their arraignment and trial.
But Van Dyke’s latest request says he was harassed on his visit to the courthouse on March 23, starting with a woman who recognized him while in the security line. Van Dyke also claims another woman seated in the same row of the courtroom with the officer during the hearing had a sign that said “in summary, ’16 shots and a cover up’” and held it up “approximately 6 inches” from Van Dyke’s face and followed Van Dyke out of the courtroom.
In the hallway, Van Dyke said “a group of young, African-American males” circled Van Dyke and his lawyer and “scowled” at Van Dyke. A “tall and slender” man with tattoos and cornrows has attended every hearing, has been especially aggressive, the motion states.
Gaughan on Wednesday did not release copies of Van Dyke’s new motion to dismiss the charges in a new indictment filed against Van Dyke unsealed last month by Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon, which added 16 counts of aggravated battery to the first-degree murder filed against Van Dyke in 2015.
In court last week, Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, said that prosecutors never told grand jurors about laws that allow police officers to use deadly force before they handed up the charges.
Also still under seal are motions by Herbert’s lawyers seeking to stall disciplinary proceedings by the Chicago Police Department against officers who witnessed the McDonald shooting.