Alternate Jurors Excused from Van Dyke Trial Say They Leaned Toward Murder Conviction

Speaking after court ended, the two alternate jurors now excused from Jason Van Dyke's murder trial answered questions about their thoughts on the case

What to Know

  • Van Dyke is charged with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald nearly four years ago
  • The Chicago police officer was captured on dashcam video shooting McDonald 16 times the night of Oct. 20, 2014, on the city's Southwest Side
  • Van Dyke entered a plea of not guilty

Two alternate jurors who were dismissed as deliberations began in Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial said they likely would have found him guilty of first-degree murder. 

Speaking after court ended Thursday, the two answered questions about their thoughts on the case. 

“I would have said guilty,” one alternate said. 

When asked why, the man said he thought Van Dyke “should have waited a little bit longer.” 

“I mean he knew the Taser was coming,” he said. “That’s what did it for me.” 

The second alternate, a woman, also said she “would have leaned towards a guilty verdict.” 

“I think the fact that other officers had encountered Laquan McDonald that night and they didn’t feel the need to use deadly force,” she said. 

Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. Now, as his trial nears an end, he faces two counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery and one count of official misconduct. 

In an unexpected move, prosecutors revealed in closing arguments Thursday that jurors could also consider a lesser charge of second-degree murder. 

“I think I would have considered that,” one alternate juror said. “I mean, as we sit here now, without deliberating without our peers, this is our perspective. But when you're talking about first and second-degree murder and those different caveats, I think that is something that would have had to have been discussed.” 

The second juror disagreed, saying first-degree murder “would be my choice.” 

In nearly three weeks of trial, the defense called 20 witnesses, including Van Dyke himself, to make their case that McDonald, a black teenager armed with a knife, posed a threat when Van Dyke, a white officer, opened fire on him. 

Prosecutors tried to highlight inconsistencies in Van Dyke's testimony, particularly in comparison with dashcam video of the shooting released in 2015. They rested their case against Van Dyke last week after calling 24 witnesses over three and a half days. 

When asked about the widely seen dashcam video of the shooting, the same video that sparked massive protests in the city in 2015, one alternate said it was hard to say if the footage played a big role in his decision. 

“It’s dark, that’s one thing,” he said. “You have all the lights going. It’s hard to say.” 

When asked about the testimony by Van Dyke himself, the two said he seemed “nervous.” 

Both alternates said they weren’t swayed by testimony over which of the 16 shots killed McDonald that night. 

“I think the bottom line is he ultimately died and it was two of the gunshot wounds,” one alternate juror said. “Whichever ones it was, I think the outcome is the same and that's what we're focused on right now is trying to figure out the way and manner – if the way Jason Van Dyke handled it was appropriate and if he should have used that sort of force. So whether or not it was the first shot or the last shot, Laquan McDonald hit the ground within a second and a half.” 

As for the decision now facing their fellow jurors, the alternates said the decision won’t be easy. 

“It's not easy for anyone to sit here because it's a tragedy,” one alternate said. “What happened - there is a life that is lost that isn't here, there's another life at stake. So there's no way to make an easy decision, but sometimes the right decision isn't the easy decision.”


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