Van Dyke's Lawyers Told To Decide If They Want a Jury Trial | WBEZ
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Officer's Lawyers Told To Decide If They Want a Jury Trial

Updated 7:05 p.m.

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in the murder trial of a white Chicago police officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald after prosecutors and defense attorneys settled on the final jurors and alternates on Thursday.

Jury selection wrapped up much more quickly than expected, with question of prospects taking just three days. The 12-person jury is made up of seven whites, three Hispanics, one African-American and one Asian-American. Attorneys also picked five alternates on Thursday afternoon.

Now the question is whether the selected jurors will ever get a chance to decide the fate of Officer Jason Van Dyke. Defense attorneys have been considering whether to allow the jury to hear the evidence or choose a bench trial in which the judge makes the decision. On Thursday, Judge Vincent Gaughan told the officer's attorneys that they have until Friday to tell him their decision.

Van Dyke's attorneys have also asked that the trial be moved out of Chicago because, they contend, extensive media coverage has made it impossible for Van Dyke to get a fair trial in Cook County. Gaughan has not announced a decision on that request.

Though jury selection only took a few days, the process did raise questions that are certain to come up during the trial. Most of the prospective jurors said they had seen the police video of the 2014 encounter in which Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times. Some jurors who were excused said they could not be impartial after what they had seen on the video, which was released in November 2015.

The dashcam video shows Van Dyke opened fire as McDonald walked away from police with a knife in his hand. The release of the video sparked large protests, the ouster of the police superintendent and demands for police reform.

Even those who were picked expressed concern, with the last male juror saying that he thought the officer had "gone too far" when he shot the 17-year-old.

Here is a quick look at those chosen Thursday for the high-profile case:

The first 12 people selected will be the jurors. The next five will be alternates who sit with the jury, but as of now won't be part of deliberations unless a replacement is needed. The judge does not want any of the 17 to know who the alternates are.

Jury selection began last week when Gaughan had about 200 potential jurors fill out a questionnaire. The first five jurors were selected Monday and the next five on Wednesday. There was no jury selection on Tuesday.

Race came up repeatedly in jury selection: The defense used their “peremptory strikes” to eliminate people of color and prosecutors got rid of potential white jurors. Both sides accused the other of illegally trying to eliminate candidates based solely on race.

The jury will consist of seven whites, three Hispanics, one Asian-American and one African-American, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday with prosecutors talking to the jury.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

This is a developing story; check back for updates and get caught up with the 16 Shots podcast.

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