Judge acquits 3 Chicago police officers in cover-up of murder case

UPDATE — 7:22 p.m. EST: Former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail Friday after being convicted of second degree murder in 2018.

Prosecutors sought an 18 to 20-year sentence.

 

Inside the Leighton courthouse Thursday afternoon, a Chicago judge acquitted three police officers charged with conspiring to cover-up the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

The three men, Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney, had been charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

The charges surround the now-infamous 2014 incident in which an armed teen, Laquan McDonald, was shot dead by former officer Jason Van Dyke and captured on police dash-cam video.

Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting, but was ultimately found guilty of murder in the second-degree and 16 counts of aggravated battery. Van Dyke was also acquitted of official misconduct.

Disputing the prosecution’s claims the three men conspired to falsify official police accounts of the incident by claiming the armed teen gestured aggressively toward Van Dyke, Cook County

Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson wrote in her decision:

“It is clear from the testimony in this case that an officer could reasonably believe that an attack was imminent based upon McDonald’s actions. Only the officers involved in the incident know what their belief was at the time of the incident. We cannot now view the actions of the officers with the benefit of hindsight as to what they should have believed.”

Although the judge’s decision of acquittal ended two years of legal entanglement for the three accused officers, family members of the deceased were stunned.

Commenting on the verdict, Rev. Marvin Hunter, uncle to the late-Laquan McDonald, blasted the police, the judge presiding over the case and the judicial system altogether:

“This is not justice. I think this judge had it made up in her mind . . . to make sure that these gentlemen never see the inside of a jail cell.” 

Officer Gaffney is expected to resume his duties with the police department; former Officer Joseph Walsh and former Detective David March have retired.

 

[Chicago Tribune] [Chicago Sun Times] [ABC7 Chicago] [Photo courtesy Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/AP via The Daily Times]