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State Supreme Court Denies Bid to Resentence Van Dyke

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor in Van Dyke's trial, filed a petition last month asking the Illinois court to review Van Dyke's 81-month prison sentence

What to Know

  • A petition for a writ of mandamus asks the Illinois Supreme Court to review whether Van Dyke's 81-month sentence was "proper under the law"
  • Judge Vincent Gaughan last month sentenced Van Dyke to nearly seven years in prison for second-degree murder
  • The filing argued the judge should instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a bid to challenge the legality of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke's prison sentence. 

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor in Van Dyke's trial, filed a petition last month for a writ of mandamus, asking the Illinois court to review whether Van Dyke's 81-month prison sentence for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald was "proper under the law."

That petition was denied by the court, according to documents Tuesday.

"The majority’s denial, without explanation, does not confirm whether Judge Gaughan’s sentence is consistent with Illinois law," Raoul said Tuesday during a press conference. "Nonetheless, we recognize and respect the Court’s authority, which it can exercise without a specific request."

Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced former Chicago police officer Van Dyke to nearly seven years in prison in January.

Before deciding on a sentence, Gaughan first had to determine if the case fell under the “one act, one crime” doctrine, allowing Van Dyke to be sentenced on only the more serious of the two crimes he was charged with. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in a trial last year.

Prosecutors, citing precedent, argued if Van Dyke was sentenced for only one of the two charges, it should be for the aggravated battery charge, which carried a higher sentence.

Defense attorneys countered that second-degree murder was the appropriate charge, despite the possibility of probation.

Ultimately, Gaughan chose to sentence Van Dyke for second-degree murder, giving him the 81-month sentence.

“Is it more serious for Laquan McDonald to be shot by a firearm or is it more serious for Laquan McDonald to be murdered by a firearm?” Gaughan said while making his ruling.

Raoul's filing called on the Supreme Court to direct Gaughan to vacate Van Dyke's sentence for second-degree murder and instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. The judge would then need to determine which of those counts involved "severe bodily injury," allowing for consecutive sentences. 

“It is important that a police officer was held accountable for criminal conduct,” McMahon said in a statement. “But we argued at the sentencing hearing that Jason Van Dyke should be sentenced for the aggravated battery with a firearm convictions. The ability for the prosecution to challenge a sentence is very narrow, but this might be one of those situations.”

Van Dyke's appeal attorneys, Darren O'Brien and Jennifer Blagg, said in a statement the filing would open up "a Pandora's box of legal issues that, in the long term, could result in grossly excessive, unjust sentences for defendants that follow in the wake of this request." 

"We are extremely pleased with the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to deny the challenge to the sentence imposed by the trial court in this case," his attorney Dan Herbert said in a statement Tuesday. "We hope that the decision will strike a fatal blow to the political exploitation of the death of LaQuan McDonald." 

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