Van Dyke’s lawyers accused of striking Blacks from jury because of their race

Illinois

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OFFICER JASON VAN DYKE photographed arriving at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse with his attorney on September 10, 2018.

Crusader staff report

Prosecutors on Wednesday, September 12, accused the defense team of Van Dyke of striking Blacks from serving on the jury that would decide the fate of the Chicago police officer who is charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.

Jury selection resumed Wednesday after no proceedings were held on Tuesday, September 11, where Judge Vincent Gaughan attended a scheduled engagement. Like Monday, jury selection moved at a swift pace as five more jurors were selected to serve for the trial, bringing the total number so far to 10. The group includes five whites, three Hispanics, one Asian and one Black. Wednesday marked the first time a Black person was chosen to serve as a juror in the racially-charged trial.

Six more jurors will be selected for the trial, included four who will serve as alternates. Jury selection is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

Gaughan has ordered the media to not report the jurors’ names or photograph them to protect their safety and identity.

The Black person selected as a juror is a woman in her 50’s who works as a FedEx driver. She said she had seen the police dash cam video of the McDonald shooting and had an opinion about how many times the shots went off.

Before the Black woman was picked as a juror, Van Dyke’s attorneys asked Judge Vincent Gaughan to strike the woman for “cause” but their request was denied. On Monday, September 10, Van Dykes’ attorneys used two of their seven peremptory strikes to remove two Blacks from jury consideration.

Striking jurors based on race is illegal, according to a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court Case Batson v. Kentucky. The High Court ruled that striking jurors strictly because of their race violates the Equal Protection Clause, which aimed to end the practice of Blacks being shut out from serving as jurors in trials. The ruling was the basis for the Batson challenge, which Prosecutor Marilyn Hite-Ross used Wednesday to challenge Van Dyke’s attorney, accusing him of striking Black jury candidates based solely on their race.

But Gaughan disagreed with prosecutors, saying that the defense had put forth “race neutral explanations in removing people from jury consideration.

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