When Richard Speck, facing criminal charges for the brutal slayings of eight student nurses on the South Side, went to trial nearly a half-century ago, it was a legal gathering of Speck’s “peers” in Peoria who ultimately presided over his trial.
Just as I recall the trial of Rolando Cruz, a man accused in the 1983 slaying of a nine-year-old girl in DuPage County ultimately had to be conducted in Rockford for the same reason – all the pre-trial publicity had stirred up such hostility amongst the locals there was no way a jury pool could be picked that wouldn’t be tainted against a defendant.
WE OUGHT TO keep this in mind with regards to Jason Van Dyke. He’s the Chicago Police patrolman who currently faces multiple counts of murder for the way in which he handled a case involving a teenager in Chicago who was a criminal suspect.
His handling involved use of his service revolver in firing many multiple gunshots into Laquan McDonald’s body. Which we know because a police video camera managed to capture the moment of death on film.
And that video has been seen over and over in news reports, along with by people who enjoy going to the Internet to find ghoulish stuff to look at.
There’s a chance that the overwhelming majority of us have seen that video of McDonald’s body twitching over and over as each bullet enters his body.
EVEN THOUGH THE police officer firing the shots is just out of the range of the camera, the overwhelming impression was of the agony that must have been felt, particularly when one notices the smoke emanating from McDonald’s body following each shot.
There’s no way an impartial jury of Chicagoans is going to be picked to preside over a trial in the Cook County Criminal Courts building. Too many people are either convinced this was brutal murder with a racial motivation, or are determined to perceive the incident as just a thug who got what he deserved.
This is going to have to be a case that will be decided elsewhere. Although I wonder where that elsewhere could be – Bloomington? Champaign? Springfield? Perhaps Peoria, where supposedly everything plays if it has appeal to everyone.
But I can’t help but remember seeing this video broadcast by the BBC to places around the world on the day it was released by prosecutors in Cook County. This thing has been exposed so much I wonder if there’s any place that can be unbiased.
UNLESS WE ACCEPT the old legal joke about picking a jury of morons who are oblivious to what happens in the world. In which case, we may have real problems when it comes to the eventual Van Dyke trial.
Personally, I don’t have a sense yet of how that trial will turn out. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an eventual acquittal for Van Dyke – which is a concept that I’m sure some activist types will absolutely want to deny is even a possibility.
Open-and-shut guilt is all they want to hear. Which makes me wonder if when they hear historic stories of people being lynched in the name of “justice,” their objection isn’t the lack judicial process, but that it wasn’t more white people suffering at the hands of the vigilante mob?
I’m not trying to express sympathy with Van Dyke’s plight. Personally, I think he’s going to go through an ordeal in the next few years while awaiting his eventual day in court.
THAT DAY WILL wind up involving a lot of outsiders, and not just because of the eventual trial relocation. Seeing soon-to-be former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez say this week a special prosecutor should be appointed to oversee the case is just one of the many non-natives to Chicago who will have to be dragged in to ensure that a sense of justice is observed.
That “justice” handed down elsewhere may even produce a result that will offend Chicagoans of differing ideological persuasions.
The only thing I’m sure of now at this early date is that no one will be totally satisfied with the case’s outcome.