Monday’s decision by federal authorities was not to criminally prosecute Jason Van Dyke (the Chicago police officer who was convicted of the murder of Black teenager Laquan McDonald)
In a press release, the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that it was decided after consulting with the McDonald’s family and that the McDonald’s family was willing to not pursue a second case.
According to the release it would have been more difficult to prosecute Van Dyke for federal charges than to prosecute him in State Court because the burden of proof was much higher.
Federal prosecutors would have to prove that Mr. Van Dyke had the intent and deliberate to do what the law prohibits. The office also stated that they could not prove that his actions were the result of fear, negligence, mistake, or bad judgement. Federal prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Van Dyke knew that such force was excessive and what he was thinking. “
Van Dyke was caught on video shooting the teenage 16 times. He was convicted in Chicago of second-degree murder in 2018 and sentenced to 81 month in state prison . He was released in February after serving less than half of the sentence.
Community activists, civil rights leaders and other who were upset by what they considered a lenient sentence had asked federal prosecutors for Van Dyke’s re-indictment.
McDonald’s family members were not available for comment Monday. However, shortly after Van Dyke was announced to be freed in February, some McDonald’s employees demanded that a federal investigation be conducted and that federal charges are pursued.
However, McDonald’s great-uncle the Rev. Marvin Hunter stated that Van Dyke should have been sentenced to a longer term, but that he didn’t want Van Dyke to be charged in federal court.
Hunter stated that if you establish a precedent of re-convicting people simply because you don’t believe he was given enough time, then hundreds upon thousands of Black men in Illinois could be hurt.” Hunter spoke at the time. They will use this case to keep them locked up. This is a way to keep slavery alive. This kind of precedent should not be allowed to continue.”
Monday’s U.S. Attorney’s Office Statement suggested that another prosecution would not satisfy critics. A federal judge would also consider factors like the time Van Dyke has served and his good behavior behind bars, which led to his early release.
It states that “Given all these factors, there is significant prospect that an additional prosecution would diminish important results already achieved,”
John R. Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney, also stated that Van Dyke will never again be a Chicago police officer. His arrest and conviction — he became the first Chicago officer to be convicted of on-duty shooting — led directly to reforms.
For example, today, video of police shootings must not be released for more than 60 days. Chicago tried for months to stop the release by the city of the police video showing McDonald’s killing.
Van Dyke’s identity was not released until after he was charged with McDonald’s shooting death. This was more than a year later. While police are still reluctant to release the name of an officer who isn’t charged, , which reviews these shootings, does.