The lawyer for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke raised some eyebrows in the courtroom on Wednesday when he compared his client, who is charged with fatally shooting a black teen, to three black sharecroppers who were brutally tortured into confessing in a 1936 U.S. Supreme Court case, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
At the tail end of 30 minutes of argument on a motion to force independent journalist Jamie Kalven to identify his sources from early stories about the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, attorney Daniel Herbert tried to draw a comparison between the plight of Van Dyke and the three plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Mississippi case.
Herbert had argued that Kalven was leaked information about statements that Van Dyke – who is white – made to investigators after shooting the African-American teenager in 2014, and seemed to be drawing a parallel to the confessions the three black sharecroppers accused of murdering a white farmer in the Brown case — in which the men were beaten, whipped, and suspended by the neck in a noose.
The comparison did not appear to sway Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan as to the question as to whether Kalven had gotten information from reports that included statements Van Dyke made to Independent Police Review Authority investigators who were probing his shooting of McDonald.
“Am I comparing Jason Van Dyke to people that have suffered years of slavery? No,” Herbert said, prompting an interruption from Gaughan, who admonished the lawyer to stick to the question of Kalven’s reporting.
The judge also disputed Herbert’s contention that the Brown decision was crucial to the landmark Miranda v. Arizona case — decided 40 years after the Brown case.
Gaughan this summer barred prosecutors from using some of Van Dyke’s statements given the night of the shooting, based on another Supreme Court ruling — Garrity v. New Jersey.
The ruling in that case has been crucial in innumerable police misconduct investigations, where police officers would be forced to chose between losing their job if they don’t cooperate with a disciplinary investigation but might risk incriminating themselves in a crimes.
“The Garrity motion is based on constitutional violations, immunized statements, should not have been used,” Herbert said. “It’s the same thing legally as those sharecroppers who were tortured.”
Kalven took the stand briefly on Wednesday, answering a series or questions from his lawyer about his background as a reporter.
Gaughan ruled that Kalven was a reporter, but after hearing arguments said he would not yet decide whether Kalven and his sources were protected by state reporter privilege laws and whether to compel Kalven to identify them.
Herbert laid out a timeline on Wednesday that he said showed Kalven had access to information from reports prepared by IPRA and was in contact with witnesses before they spoke to investigators in the case.
The information in Van Dyke’s statements given to IPRA can’t be used by prosecutors, but Kalven’s lawyer, Matt Topic, pointed out that information Herbert said could only have come from the IPRA reports was in fact from non-clandestine source — a Chicago Police press release issued the day after the shooting.