Judge to appoint special prosecutor in Laquan McDonald case

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CHICAGO -- A Cook County judge will name a special prosecutor for the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged with the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

But the judge continued a request for a special prosecutor to investigate whether there was a police cover-up.

Jason Van Dyke's attorney id not oppose either request. He does, however, feel his client is being overcharged for political reasons.

Because there was no opposition the hearing was rather quick.

Last month Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez recused herself from the case, citing her loss in the March primary election.

In agreeing to appoint a special prosecutor to try Van Dyke, the judge said state law requires him to first ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office to take the case. If she declines, he goes to the State Appellate Prosecutor's Unit. If they do not want it, then he will ask other State's Attorneys throughout Illinois, and if none of them is willing to take the case a private attorney would be appointed.

The second petition dealt with appointing a special prosecutor to look into alleged wrongdoing by other police officers in connection with the death of Laquan McDonald. Several officers who were on the scene that night in October 2014, when Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as he was walking away from him, are accused of giving statements that conflict with the police dashcam video of the shooting.

The judge decided to continue that request because he said there has not been a grand jury convened, and in his words, the case is not "shovel ready."

The attorneys who brought that petition are disappointed with the judge's decision, saying there is precedent in other cases -- such as the David Koschman murder involving former Mayor Richard Daley's nephew, and the Jon Burge police brutality cases -- to appoint a special prosecutor when there are no pending charges.

As for the special prosecutor who will be trying the Van Dyke case, the attorneys say there is no need to look outside Chicago. Last week they submitted a list of four names of African American former judges and former prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the judge to consider.

They will be back in court on July 1 to find out his decision about whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to look into alleged police wrongdoing.