Episode 9: A Jury Of His Peers

Episode 9: A Jury Of His Peers

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It took less than a week of face-to-face questioning to find the 12 jurors and five alternates who will decide the fate of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke’s legal team — which repeatedly argued that media attention would make it nearly impossible to find an unbiased jury in the Chicago area — had until Friday, when the 12th juror was sworn in, to switch to a bench trial, in which Van Dyke’s fate would be decided by Judge Vincent Gaughan.

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 charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct in the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting. The case gained national attention when the city was forced by a judge to release a police dashcam video of the white officer shooting the black teen in the middle of a Southwest Side street.

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.

In the end, Gaughan selected eight women and four men. Race was not asked in public, but the group appears to consist of seven whites, three Hispanics, one African-American and one Asian-American. The five alternates will hear all the evidence but won’t be part of deliberations unless a replacement is needed.

Opening statements are expected to begin on Monday. Here’s a closer look at what we know about the group.

Editor’s Note: The information below is based on what was said during the face-to-face interview portion of jury selection and reporter observations.

Juror 1: A Hispanic Woman

A stay-at-home mother with three children under the age of 10. She said she knew about the case but could still be fair.

Juror 2: A White Woman

A records keeper who said she supports police officers. But she said people who make mistakes on any job should be held accountable. Her partner works for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Van Dyke’s lawyers tried to get her dismissed because McDonald had spent time foster care.

Juror 3: An Asian-American Man

A financial analyst who wrote that everyone must follow the law — including police. He said he knew about the case but could still be fair.

Juror 4: A White Man

A gay man who attends a socially conscious church and has an “equality” bumper sticker. He said he knew little about the case, had not seen the video, and does not watch TV news.

Juror 5: A White Woman

The wife of a retired Navy serviceman, she said she didn’t know why McDonald was stopped and was curious why he ran away. She said she has seen the video and wrote on a jury questionnaire that Van Dyke fired “so many shots.”

Juror 6: A Black Woman

A truck driver with an uncle who is a retired Cook County jail guard. She said she thought Van Dyke fired “a lot of shots” but could remain impartial and base her verdict on the evidence presented at the trial.

Juror 7: A White Man

A gun rights supporter who takes care of his mother at home. He said he respects police officers, but wrote that “we always need checks and balances.” He said he has heard about the case but has not seen the video.

Juror 8: A Hispanic Woman

An unemployed mother and grandmother. She said she has not formed an opinion on case.

Juror 9: A White Woman

She works in medical billing. Gaughan said he knows this woman’s family. She said she reads newspapers everyday, but had not formed an opinion on the case. On her questionnaire, she wrote that “no one is above the law.”

Juror 10: A Hispanic Woman

A Chicago police applicant who has passed the written test. She said she has wanted to be a cop since age 12 and isn’t worried her verdict would affect her chances with CPD.

Juror 11: A White Man

He studied nuclear engineering but works in billing. He said he has seen the video and formed an opinion but could still be fair. “When I saw the video, I thought he had gone too far. I thought he had violated the law by shooting multiple times,” she said during the interview process.

Juror 12: Woman Of Unidentified Race

A medical technician who said she has never seen the video and has no opinion of the case. On her questionnaire, she wrote that people who do something wrong “should face the consequences.”

Alternate 1: A Hispanic Or Black Woman

Works in the Cook County Clerk’s Office. She said she was intimidated by protestors. “You don’t know what to expect — what they will do,” she said during the interview process.

Alternate 2: A White Woman

She works in marketing and promotes beer. She previously served on a jury for aggravated battery against a police officer. She said polices officers “know the law, so they should abide by it.”

Alternate 3: A Black Man

A retired security guard who said he wants to see evidence before forming an opinion. Has seen the video but got “nothing out of it.”

Alternate 4: A Hispanic Man

A truck driver who moved to the Chicago area from El Salvador in the 1980s. He has a close friend who is a police officer.

Alternate 5: A White Woman

Works in marketing at a law firm. She said she did “not necessarily” want to hear Van Dyke’s case.