When the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Officer Jason Van Dyke, the city breathed a collective sigh of relief. It also answered the prayer of many of us that the McDonald family realize a sense of justice for the loss of Laquan.
While the video cam was visual proof of Van Dyke’s aggression, there was a definite sense of unease about the outcome of the trial. Van Dyke rendition of the events surrounding the shooting of Laquan McDonald told a different story.
The victim, Laquan McDonald, was portrayed as the aggressor, allegedly lunging towards Officer Van Dyke. Van Dyke’s attorneys portrayed Laquan as a monster. They argued that Laquan was an anti-social being, intent on doing harm to others. Both characterizations were necessary to refute the charges against Officer Van Dyke. These characterizations, however, proved to be false.
Two civilian witnesses personally observed the events surrounding the shooting. Hearing the story being told by police officials of the events leading to Laquan’s death, these witnesses elected to get involve. They came forward and separately testified that the victim did not lung towards the police officers. Their testimony directly refuted Van Dyke’s version of the shooting.
Twelve jurors patiently listened to the testimony of the numerous witnesses, dutifully deliberated, and subsequently reached a verdict of guilty against Jason Van Dyke.
The health of our justice system rests firmly upon our collective belief that our system is fair. We expect the justice will hold any wrongdoer accountable and will administer a fair punishment. If Van Dyke’s version of the events were not challenged, this trial would have shaken our belief in our justice system.
We collectively own a debt of thanks and gratitude to Laquan’s family who called for calm, to the two witnesses for coming forward and getting involved, and to the jury for faithfully executing their sworn civic duty.
Finally, we must recognize that we cannot take for granted the civic institutions that preserve our society. Being witnesses in trial, serving on a jury and voting are all important civic institutions that preserve our way of life.
The opportunity for you to perform your civic duty will likely come. Please respond to this call for the well-being of us all.
Photo: The Rev. Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald’s uncle, speaks to the media at a church in Chicago after guilty verdicts were delivered in the murder trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on Friday, October 5, 2018. Hunter thanked prosecutors for the second-degree murder conviction of Van Dyke. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune via AP)