Episode 8: Building A Jury

Episode 8: Building A Jury

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The first five jurors were selected Monday in the murder trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke, 40, faces first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct charges for the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting on the city’s Southwest Side.

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.

A judged forced the city in November 2015 to release a police dashcam video of the white cop shooting the black 17-year-old. That video, which has been viewed more than a million times, sparked protests and a flurry of national media coverage.

Van Dyke’s defense team has argued that the extensive media attention will make it impossible to find an impartial jury at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. However, Judge Vincent Gaughan has delayed his decision on whether to move the trial to another county until after efforts are made to seat a jury.

Gaughan and attorneys from both sides must find 12 jurors and at least four alternates who they think can be impartial and reach a verdict based only on trial evidence — not past or current media coverage.

Last week, the judge took the unusual step of having about 200 potential jurors fill out questionnaires. On Monday, he started talking with those people face to face. Gaughan and attorneys raised the possibility that jurors could be sequestered for part or all of the high-profile trial.

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.

Here’s a closer look at the jurors selected so far:

  • The first juror is a stay-at-home Hispanic mother with three children under the age of 10.

  • The fifth juror is a white woman who appears to be in her 40s.

Jury selection is expected to continue on Wednesday.