Episode 7: Bail & Reform

Episode 7: Bail & Reform

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The Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald had to pay an additional $200 to stay out of jail because of what he said to local media in the days leading up to the trial.

Judge Vincent Gaughan said Thursday that Jason Van Dyke violated the case’s “decorum order” with what he said in interviews last week to the Chicago Tribune and Fox 32 Chicago. You can hear parts of Van Dyke’s interview with the Tribune in the first episode of 16 Shots.

This episode is part of 16 Shots, a podcast first released in 2018 about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, the trial of Officer Jason Van Dyke, and the troubled relationship between African-Americans and the Chicago Police Department. To hear all the episodes, subscribe on Pocket Casts, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Van Dyke, 40, faces first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct charges in the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting death of McDonald on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The officer wasn’t charged until city officials were forced in November 2015 to release a police dashcam video of the white cop shooting the black teen. Bond was initially set at $1.5 million, and Van Dyke spent six nights in Cook County Jail before his father posted the required $150,000.

One of the conditions of his release was that he obey all court orders while awaiting trial. On Jan. 20, 2016, Gaughan issued a decorum order, which set strict limits on the public dissemination of possible evidence and public comment outside the courtroom by anyone involved in the case.

Gaughan has enforced such secrecy in some of his other high-profile cases, including the 2008 trial of singer R. Kelly.

Prosecutors claimed Van Dyke violated that decorum order when he spoke to the media in what they portrayed as a self-defense argument without being questioned on the witness stand. But defense attorney Randy Rueckert argued that Van Dyke only gave interviews because of the avalanche of publicity against him since the shooting.

Gaughan ruled in favor of the prosecutors and raised bond by $2,000, which means Van Dyke had to pay another $200 to stay out of jail.

Van Dyke walked out of the courthouse with his father about an hour later.

The high-profile trial started Wednesday when about 200 potential jurors were given questionnaires and told to come back Monday. Gaughan is expected to interview potential jurors next week.

Van Dyke’s defense team can still opt to have a bench trial, with a judge deciding his fate, until the last juror is sworn in. But if they choose a jury trial, Gaughan must find 12 people he thinks can reach a verdict based only on trial evidence — not past or current media coverage.

Van Dyke’s defense team has argued that will be impossible in Cook County. They have filed a motion to move the trial outside the county, but Gaughan won’t rule on that change-of-venue request until after efforts are made to find an impartial jury at the Chicago courthouse. That selection process will continue Monday, when the judge will interview potential jurors.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.