Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Just what constitutes Justice?

VAN DYKE: What will be left of life?
I can already hear the rants from people who fear that justice (or is that Justice! with a capital “J”) won’t be served in coming weeks.

The would-be defendants whom some are eager to see prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law (if not beyond the extend, with the mythical “book” being thrown at them) are none other than Alderman Edward M. Burke and former police officer Jason Van Dyke.
BURKE: Does he still have a political life?

VAN DYKE, OF course, is the white police officer who was found guilty last year of criminal offenses in the 2014 shooting death of a teenager who happens to be black.

While Burke is the long-time alderman named in a criminal complaint suggesting that he went too far in terms of shaking down a business that wants to remodel a Gage Park neighborhood Burger King franchise.

The very franchise, in fact, where Laquan McDonald, the black teenager, was shot nearby on that night in ’14 when he didn’t stop fast enough to satisfy Van Dyke’s concerns.

It seems that federal prosecutors would like to strengthen their criminal case against Burke by getting a grand jury to indict him on some sort of charge – perhaps something far more significant than he currently faces.

WHICH IS WHY attorneys were in court this week. In theory, prosecutors had until Friday – the next scheduled court date – before they would have to put up or shut up, so to say. Instead, an extension was granted. May 3 is now the significant date.

A fact that will anger those people so eager for a Burke criminal conviction that they dream of it being the factor that knocks him out of the running for the Feb. 26 municipal elections.
Legal notoriety? Or is all publicity good?

Even if the 14th Ward aldermanic race stretches to an April 2 run-off (which is very likely), it means the elections will be over before we know exactly what will become of Burke on the criminal justice front. He could easily wind up being re-elected before actual charges are known.

It will complicate the desires of those who just want Ed Burke out of office – and really don’t care much about the specific details. It sort of makes it easier for Burke to focus on campaigning for re-election if actual criminal charges are theoretical.

AS FOR FRIDAY in court, it now means nothing for Burke. But for those eager to see criminal justice action that day, the focus will be solely on Van Dyke.

For he’s the one found guilty of second degree murder and multiple counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Theoretically, he could get multiple sentences for each charge that could have a minimum of 96 years in prison.

A sentence that would appease those people eager to see a cop go to prison for what they will forevermore see as a racially-motivated slaying. But prosecutors admitted this week there is a way to interpret the sentencing guidelines so that Van Dyke could theoretically get 15 years of actual prison time.

At age 40 now, he’d be 55 upon release. Which would still allow him a chance to have some life left in freedom – even though it will be his aging years, as the rest of what’s left of his youth would be spent in prison somewhere.

IT WILL BE interesting to see how Judge Vincent Gaughan interprets the law in this case. I have no doubt everybody’s going to be outraged – from those who want Van Dyke to get some form of probation up to those who want him to get a lengthy, demoralizing prison term then want him to die at the hands of his fellow inmates.
GAUGHAN: Expected to impose sentence Friday

Which is a sick attitude to have, but it is one that becomes all too common amongst the general public. The very reason why we don’t let public sentiment play too much of a role in criminal cases.

Similar to those who would like to see Ed Burke get hauled off to the pokey, so to speak, as punishment for all the ideologically-motivated acts he committed throughout his 50 years in the City Council.

Public sentiment all too often leads to rash acts that, in and of themselves, are an injustice.


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