On Tuesday, Jason Van Dyke gave emotional testimony about how and why he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Big mistake. Jurors in the case seemed to agree that he seemed “rehearsed.” Some said that he shouldn’t have taken the stand.
“He messed up,” said juror 245, a black woman. “I felt like he was trying to remember stuff that he said that maybe wasn’t true, and he wanted to make sure didn’t trip himself up. I didn’t really feel his testimony was credible.”
Juror 243, a white man, agreed that Van Dyke seemed rehearsed.
“I didn’t quite trust that,” he said.
They and a female alternate spoke to reporters on camera after the verdict on Friday. The jury convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder, and 16 counts of aggravated battery, but acquitted him of official misconduct.
The other jurors asked not to be shown on camera. 250, a man, told reporters that Van Dyke seemed scared on the stand, but added that the defendant’s professed memories didn’t line up with the evidence.
“I felt like he took a pause to want to tear up or cry,” said 240, a woman. “I did look down because I’m a mom, and he has a mom of course, and I was feeling a little bad for him.” But even she said the testimony seemed rehearsed.
241 and 249, both women, also used the same word: “rehearsed.”
Prosecutors say Van Dyke went way over the line in confronting McDonald, was allegedly on PCP and acted belligerent. The defense argued the victim’s behavior made him a danger to Van Dyke and others. By deciding on second-degree murder, jurors agreed that Van Dyke believed he was in danger when confronting McDonald that night, but that his fear was unreasonable.
253, another woman, said the turning point in the case was when Van Dyke recalled saying, “Oh my god, We’re going to have to shoot the guy.” Jurors 243 said that Van Dyke’s 20-years on the force should’ve prepared him to handle safely confronting McDonald, and look for other options.
253 said that his testimony also contradicted his initial report after the shooting.
“It seemed like he was trying to cover himself up after when he gave his report, and the truth came out when the video was shown,” she said.
When asked if an acquittal for murder was ever on the table, 245 said no. 248, a woman, said they first took a blind straw poll when starting deliberations. Only two voted not guilty. Three were undecided, and the remaining seven wanted to convict.
241 said they acquitted Van Dyke of official misconduct because generally speaking, he could legally do what he did, even though this particular incident was illegal. 245 agreed that the defendant had the right to carry the weapon because he was a police officer.
Dash-cam footage of the McDonald shooting, released in 2015, added more fuel to an ongoing debate as to how people of color, especially black men, are treated by police. The victim was black. Van Dyke is white. The defendant’s attorney Dan Herbert tried to downplay the racial elements during opening statements, but a remark in closings didn’t help him out.
“If Laquan McDonald did not appear to be some kid whacked out on PCP acting really bizarrely, if this was a kid in a Boy Scout uniform just walking down the street with a knife, and Jason Van Dyke shot him, yeah, it probably wouldn’t be justified,” he said. This comment didn’t earn him any points with 245.
She told reporters that it was an inappropriate statement.
“We didn’t come here because of race,” she said. “We came here for right or wrong.”
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]