An attorney for one of the three Chicago police officers charged with a cover-up in the Laquan McDonald shooting said they are all happy with Domenica A. Stephenson, the most recent judge assigned to the case, and have decided to forgo their right to reject her.
“We feel comfortable in Judge Stephenson’s courtroom,” Thomas Breen, the attorney of former Officer Joseph Walsh, told WBEZ on Wednesday afternoon. “She’s a veteran. She’s been around the block. She has a pretty darn good reputation.”
Stephenson, a former Cook County prosecutor, has been a judge for more than a decade, mostly in the criminal division.
Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said she is “totally fine” with Stephenson.
“From everything we’ve heard, she’s an excellent judge and is experienced and will give us a fair and impartial opportunity with respect to this case,” Holmes said.
Walsh, Officer Thomas Gaffney and former Detective David March were indicted last month on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct — all related to an alleged cover-up for Jason Van Dyke, the officer accused of fatally shooting McDonald on October 20, 2014.
Two other judges were assigned the case last week.
The first, Mary Margaret Brosnahan, recused herself. She is married to former Chicago Detective Kriston Kato, who was dispatched by the Fraternal Order Police to the shooting scene as a union representative.
The case was assigned next to Judge Diane Gordon Cannon, known for her 2015 acquittal of Chicago police Lt. Glenn Evans, who was a commander when he was accused of putting a gun in a suspect’s mouth.
Holmes filed a motion that asked for a different judge and that labeled Cannon “prejudiced,” a word from an Illinois statute that gives the state and each defendant one opportunity to reject a judge without showing cause.
The case landed with Stephenson on Tuesday. The three officers could have rejected her — or each taken a turn nixing a judge — in hopes of getting one they liked more than her.
Separately, Van Dyke faces charges of first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery with a firearm in the McDonald shooting.
On Wednesday, Van Dyke’s attorney told Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan he planned to request a change of venue, which could move that trial to another county.
Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipMitchell1.