Friday, September 14, 2018

Would Chicago be better off if Van Dyke were to get a bench trial?

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer about to go on trial for a 2014 shooting death of a teenager, has until Friday to decide whether he wants his fate determined by a jury of his so-called peers, or by a judge.

GAUGHAN: Will he, or jurors, decide fate?
I can’t help but think we as a society would be better off if he were to get a bench trial – as in letting a judge decide his fate based solely on the merits of the law.

IT’S NOT THAT I have all that much faith in the mindset of the judiciary. It’s more that I suspect there’s no way any group of individuals will be capable of putting aside their emotions with this case.

We’re more likely to avoid offending the sensibilities of our society if we put this case into the hands of a judge.

Not that we can avoid offending people. When it comes to Van Dyke and the death of Laquan McDonald, there are going to be people who will be grossly offended – no matter how the case is resolved.

As things stand going into Friday, a 12-member jury has been picked, and officials say they expect four alternates who could be called upon if one of the dozen jurors winds up having to withdraw could be chosen soon.

WHICH IS WHY Judge Vincent Gaughan has given Van Dyke and his legal counsel until Friday to make the decision – jury trial, or bench trial?

If Van Dyke ultimately decides on a bench trial, then the outcome will be solely up to Gaughan. All of the jurors who have thus far been chosen will be dismissed – and they won’t ever have to make a decision on what should become of the cop who got captured on video firing 16 shots into McDonald’s body.

VAN DYKE:A decision to make by Friday
Defense, of course, sees this as a case of the teenager wielding a knife while walking down the street and behaving in ways that made it seem as though he was a threat to the public.

It’s apparent that Van Dyke took actions that resulted in McDonald’s death; although police officers are given authority to use deadly force on the job. Which makes this a trial solely about determining the line between justifiable homicide and murder.

IT’S SAD THAT this is going to become a race-tinged case. There already are those upset that the 12-member jury apparently has seven white people, three Latinos, one Asian and ONLY one black person.

The trial hasn’t even begun, and we’re already getting the accusations that defense attorneys went out of their way to eliminate as many black people from jury consideration as possible.

I don’t care if all four alternates wind up being African-American; we’ll get the claims that a group of white people refused to administer justice against a white cop. Although there will be others who will rant and rage about the notion of Van Dyke being prosecuted BECAUSE he’s white.

They’ll think acquittal is the only possible outcome that won’t be a travesty.

THAT IS WHY I’d prefer this to be a bench trial. Even though I’m sure the masses of Chicagoans who have taken an interest in this case will be prepared to decimate the legal reputation of Gaughan if he doesn’t ultimately rule in their favor with regards to Van Dyke. I actually have more faith in a judge to make such a decision than so-called civilians, and to understand the nuances of "the law" than some individual who likely is peeved that his/her life is being disrupted for a few weeks by being called upon for jury duty,

McDONALD: Chgo gets to relive his death
Because for every person determined to think Van Dyke is being unjustly prosecuted, there are also masses determined to believe that the only reasonable outcome is for Van Dyke to be brutalized while serving a prison term.

This truly is an ugly trial; one that will bring out all the nasty elements of our society. A part of me thinks we’d have been better off if Gaughan had accepted the suggestions that this trial venue be transferred to somewhere else.

It also makes me all the more grateful that my own name didn’t get called for consideration of jury duty because (with two uncles who served as Chicago police officers) I honestly don’t know how I’d have handled the questioning over whether I could be impartial in deciding between the gun-wielding cop or the knife-wielding teen.


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