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Here’s What Happened In The Courtroom In The Murder Trial Of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke

Editor's note: This page was last updated Jan. 18, 2019.

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot Laquan McDonald in the middle of a Southwest Side street on Oct. 20, 2014. The shooting was captured on video by a police dashcam.

The city kept that video hidden from the public for more than a year. When a judge finally forced its release, the recording was viewed by millions of people and the fallout was rapid. But the murder case against Van Dyke moved much slower. Lawyers for both sides spent years arguing about everything from where the trial should take place to what evidence should be allowed.

From charges to sentencing, here’s a recap of major courtroom developments.

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Cook County prosecutors charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder. A grand jury indicted the officer on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct.

Judge Vincent Gaughan swore in special prosecutor Joseph McMahon, the state’s attorney of nearby Kane County. Gaughan had agreed to appoint a special prosecutor for the Van Dyke case because Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez withdrew after she lost her re-election bid.

Van Dyke’s lawyers made several requests to get the charges thrown out. Judge Gaughan denied each request.

Judge Gaughan ruled that Van Dyke’s lawyers would get access to most of McDonald’s child welfare records. The ruling followed unsuccessful attempts by the officer’s lawyers to get a juvenile court judge to release the records.

McMahon, the prosecutor brought in for the case, made the unusual move of convening a new grand jury. That led to the same charges plus 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each shot to McDonald.

Judge Gaughan held the case’s first closed hearing. After ordering reporters and spectators to leave the courtroom, the judge approved several defense witnesses for testimony about McDonald’s alleged propensity for violence. The notoriously secretive judge held several more closed hearings before the trial.

It took about a week to pick 12 jurors and five alternates.

Van Dyke’s lawyers had until Sept. 14, 2018 to waive his right to a jury. Eight women and four men were called to decide Van Dyke's fate.

Judge Gaughan announced the trial will be held in Cook County. Van Dyke’s lawyers had argued the publicity around the shooting would make it impossible to get a fair trial in Cook County. Prosecutors said 12 impartial jurors could be found among the county’s millions of residents. Gaughan didn't make the decision until after jury selection.

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defense gave their opening arguments.

Prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses during the first four days of testimony, including many current and former police officers who were on the scene the night of the shooting. They also put doctors, nurses, and paramedics on the stand, as well as experts in ballistics and video analysis.

Van Dyke's lawyers called about 20 witnesses — including Van Dyke. The officer insisted the shooting was self-defense because McDonald moved toward him with a knife. His lawyers also called juvenile detention center workers, who describe McDonald’s violent outbursts, and  experts to cast doubt on the autopsy and dashcam video. They even presented an animated video meant to portray the shooting from Van Dyke's vantage point.

Lawyers gave their closing arguments on Oct. 4, 2018. The jury deliberated for about eight hours, spread over two days.

The jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. They found him not guilty on the official misconduct charge.

Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke to nearly seven years in prison for second-degree murder. Under Illinois law, he can serve as little as 50 percent of the term. He faced anywhere from probation to decades in prison.