Judge Vincent Gaughan closed off the hearings related to the legal case on Friday, and also indicated that at least one day’s worth of legal hearings to be held this week also will be closed off.
THERE ARE THOSE who are trying to spin this as a judge behaving like a control freak; although when I think about it I see a judge who’s trying to prevent this particular criminal case from becoming a legal circus.
Which is something that could all-too-easily happen, because of the nature of this particular case. This is the officer who’s facing criminal charges for the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy, Laquan McDonald.
The kind of people inclined to view police as some sort of criminal entity itself are hoping desperately that “justice” will prevail and that the corrupt, killer cop will wind up going to prison himself.
I don’t doubt there are some people who will only be satisfied if Van Dyke winds up in a maximum-security prison and winds up being assaulted by his fellow inmates.
WHILE THERE ARE other individuals who are inclined to believe that far too much is being made of the concept of police brutality and that they want a sense of law and order to prevail. They want a police officer to be rewarded for using a level of force necessary to deal with a dangerous official.
Which means that in the Van Dyke trial, there’s going to be efforts to bring out as much dirt about McDonald as possible. To create a sense that perhaps the officer wasn’t reacting crazily out-of-line when he fired 16 shots at the teenager.
That, according to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, was the purpose of the Friday court hearing. Up to nine people who could provide testimony about the teenage boy and his history of bad behavior supposedly were called upon during a more-than-two-hour court hearing.
For his part, Gaughan said the need for secrecy is because the people who appeared in court could wind up facing public harassment IF it became known they said something that could be used favorably on behalf of Van Dyke.
HE’S NOT WRONG. There will be some people determined to ensure that only the most derogatory impression of Van Dyke comes out. They’re going to react hostilely toward any mention of McDonald’s criminal record. They’re going to consider all that irrelevant.
While the “law and order” crowd will want to view it as the only relevant bits of evidence.
Gaughan is in a position where he’s going to have to balance out these conflicting views. He’s going to be deciding now just how much of all this is truly relevant and ought to be permitted to come up during the eventual criminal trial that likely will take place some time this summer.
One mistake now, and we could wind up with the Van Dyke trial being tainted and overturned on appeal.
IT IS A case that likely will offend many Chicagoans, regardless of how it turns out and what verdict ultimately is rendered by the eventual jury that is picked to decide the officer’s fate.
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Gaughan, I’m sure, knows he’s not going to win any popularity contests, no matter how he conducts himself during coming months.
In fact, my own belief is that the anger over this case is going to be intense whether conviction or acquittal is the ultimate outcome for Van Dyke.
It’s just a matter of which group is going to be screaming the loudest.