Jurors on Van Dyke Verdict: ‘We Came Here for Right and Wrong'

"We didn’t come here because of race. We came here for right and wrong," said juror no. 245

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

Jury deliberations began with a simple vote — but not all were on the same page as the group of eight women and four men worked to decide the fate of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, accused of murder for fatally shooting a teenager while on duty. 

Jurors said that at the start of deliberations, seven voted for a guilty verdict, two voted for not guilty and three were undecided.

A juror describes the moment where Jason Van Dyke’s defense team “messed up” in his murder trial. 

"We had a little problem at first, but we talked about it," said juror no. 245. "We had to break everything down, and we talked among each other until we came to the conclusion."

The group ultimately convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, but found him not guilty of official misconduct. 

"We realized that as a police officer, a trained officer who had been doing his work for about 20 years, that he should have realized what the situation was and instead of escalating the situation should have looked at other options," said juror no. 243. "For example, taking the time to back away, or just the patience to wait for other vehicles to get there — a vehicle with a Taser." 

There was one thing every juror appeared to agree on: Van Dyke's 90 minutes of testimony only hurt his case.

"He messed up," juror no. 245 said. "His testimony wasn’t credible to me. I felt like he was trying to remember stuff that he said that maybe wasn’t true." 

Other jurors in the room nodded in agreement.

"We just didn’t buy it," said juror no. 241, saying she felt the testimony was "rehearsed." 

Van Dyke appeared emotionless as the verdict, reached nearly 24 hours after deliberations began, was read in court. 

Second-degree murder carries a four- to 20-year prison sentence, but can also result in four years of probation instead of prison. Aggravated battery carries a six- to 30-year sentence, 85 percent of which must be served. 

The long-awaited verdict comes nearly four years to the date after Laquan McDonald was fatally shot. Dashcam video footage of the shooting shook the city and the nation, sparking massive protests and calls for justice. 

September would have marked McDonald's 21st birthday.

Van Dyke's attorneys maintain the Chicago officer was wrongly charged, saying he was acting within the law when he shot the teen, who at the time was an armed felon fleeing a crime scene.

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 to Van Dyke that justified the white officer's decision to open fire.

Prosecutors tried to highlight inconsistencies in Van Dyke's testimony, particularly in comparison with dashcam video of the shooting released in 2015, which was shown to the jury.

"The truth came out when the [dashcam] video was shown," juror no. 253 said. 

During the days-long trial, jurors also saw graphic autopsy images of the more than a dozen gunshot wounds on McDonald's body, video animation of the shooting from Van Dyke's point of view and video showing 16 gunshots in 14 seconds. 

They heard testimony from several Chicago police officers who responded to the scene that night, witnesses who saw the shooting, experts on use of force and those who knew McDonald in his younger years.

"Every day we walked in and looked at two families," said juror no. 248. "We saw Jason Van Dyke’s family, and we saw Laquan McDonald’s family. And I couldn’t walk in here without thinking of that every day." 

"We didn’t come here because of race. We came here for right and wrong," juror no. 245 said.

After agreeing to the verdict, the jurors also agreed it was an honor to be a part of the decision. 

"It’ll be something that I’ll talk about for a while," said juror no. 245.

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