Van Dyke Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder, Aggravated Assault
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty Friday of 2nd degree murder, along with 16 counts of aggravated assault—one for each shot he fired at Laquan McDonald.
Initial reports from police, along with testimony from Van Dyke, alleged that McDonald, who appeared “crazed,” lunged at the officer. After a 13-month battle initiated by community activists and journalists, police dashcam footage was released, which showed McDonald walking away as Van Dyke unloaded a full clip into the teen. The release of the footage sparked a wave of outrage and protest along with calls for more police accountability.
The second degree murder conviction meant the jury first found Van Dyke guilty of first degree murder, but a mitigating factor caused them to drop the decision to second degree murder. The judge told jurors ahead of deliberation last week the second degree charge was available, if the jury thought Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but the belief was unreasonable. He was also acquitted of official misconduct. (Chicago Sun Times)
“I’m thanking God for our family,” Rev. Marvin Hunter, the great uncle of Laquan McDonald, told reporters in an afternoon press conference at a church that took place as demonstrations continued downtown. “This is not just a victory for the Hunter family. This is a victory for families all across the country.”
On Friday afternoon, a few hundred Chicagoans—many of them community activists who’ve spent four years organizing and campaigning for justice for Laquan McDonald and police accountability since the shooting occurred in 2014—gathered in front of City Hall to watch the verdict.
“We’ve got something to celebrate,” said Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “This is a great day for the movement, but it’s not the last day. This is the beginning of the changes that we’ve needed in this city for a long, long time.”
Gubernatorial Candidates to Debate Twice This Week
Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will verbally spar for a third time on Tuesday with his Democratic opponent, billionaire J.B. Pritzker. The debate, which will be in front of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, comes after two fiery but ultimately predictable televised debates that featured mostly mudslinging and boilerplate talking points from both candidates.
Both candidates were also supposed to appear on WTTW Monday answering questions for high school student members of the Mikva Challenge, but Rauner bowed out of that appearance.
Pritkzer and the governor will also appear in a live televised debate taking place downstate on Thursday. (Chicago Tribune Morning Spin)
Illinoisans React to Kavanaugh Confirmation
Illinois lawmakers, candidates for political office, and others reacted to the confirmation of newly appointed United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh, a hard line conservative and Trump loyalist, was confirmed by the Senate Friday in a 50-48 vote despite multiple allegations of sexual assault and a nationwide wave of protest, and is already facing calls for impeachment for allegedly lying during his testimony to Congress.
“The word ‘disappointed’ doesn’t begin to cover what I’m feeling right now,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth, who voted no, in a statement.”I’m heartbroken for the survivors of sexual assault who were forced to relive their trauma over the past few weeks, and I’m deeply worried for the millions of Americans whose lives will be affected by Brett Kavanaugh’s decisions on the highest court in the land. Throughout his confirmation process, Kavanaugh revealed himself to be bitterly partisan—a man whose temperament can more aptly be described as belligerent than judicial.”
Duckworth’s colleague in the Senate Dick Durbin also voted no.
“I believe the debate over this nomination has created a stronger force in our nation for justice for victims of sexual violence, and I hope those who stepped forward know that they are not alone,” said Durbin. “Thank you for your courage. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker said he was “angry and disappointed,” but that the confirmation should galvanize people to head to the polls in November.
“I have opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination from day one because he threatens the rights of millions and could undermine everything from a woman’s right to choose, affordable healthcare, LGBTQ rights, consumer protections, fair housing, and environmental protections,” said Pritzker. “We must let this energize us toward winning big in November and electing Democrats across our state and our country.”
Representative Jan Schakowsky tweeted that the decision was a day that would “live in infamy.”
This day will live in infamy. Every Supreme Court decision Brett #Kavanaugh makes will be tainted with the indelible stain of the accusations against him and the tarnished process that confirmed him.
— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) October 6, 2018
“During the confirmation process, we watched an honest, inspiring, and terrified woman put herself and her family in the bullseye of a national frenzy to warn the Senate against confirming him,” Schakowsky added in a statement. :Today, we witness Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate brush her—and by extension all survivors of sexual assault—aside without a second thought.”
A group of demonstrators, many of them college students who participated in walkouts, gathered in front of the American Bar Association offices in River North on Thursday ahead of the confirmation hearings to voice their opposition as well.
“I’m extremely frustrated, and especially disgusted by the attitude that he’s entitled to be on the court,” Zoe Kirk, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology told the ABA Journal.
“The main message here is that MeToo is not over. And it’s not going to stop at Kavanaugh, either,” said Taylor Edwards, a senior at DePaul University.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a downstate Republican, meanwhile, celebrated Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “He has displayed the utmost fairness and impartiality and will be a great addition to the US Supreme Court,” LaHood told the Peoria Journal-Star. “ Having been through seven FBI background investigations throughout his tenure, Judge Kavanaugh has been thoroughly vetted more than any other nominee in our history and I have full confidence in his judicial abilities as the next Associate Justice to the Court.”
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