Pig Judge Lets Chicago Pigs Walk Free for Lying About and Covering Up the Police Murder of Laquan McDonald

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Just the day before a judge gave Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke an outrageously light sentence for the murder of Laquan McDonald, a different judge delivered another outrageous decision: a “not guilty” verdict on three former and current Chicago cops on charges of conspiring to cover up that murder. The hour-long statement read by the judge in court was not only a complete exoneration of the three cops on trial but a vehement defense of what the police did to Laquan McDonald. It was a “not guilty” verdict on the code of silence of pigs across the country.

The three cops were among at least eight on the scene the night Van Dyke killed Laquan in October 2014. Laquan had been followed for some time by a group of cops, who evidently saw no immediate threat, when Van Dyke rolled up to the scene, jumped out of the police car, and within seconds started firing on Laquan, with no conceivable justification. Even after Laquan crumpled to the ground from the initial shot, Van Dyke continued to fire, 16 shots in all. None of the cops on the scene gave any aid to Laquan or even attempted to find out what his condition was.

Within hours of the shooting of Laquan, Van Dyke and other officers who were on the scene and the detective in charge of “investigating” the incident met back together at area central. There they discussed the shooting and watched the dashcam video, which—as millions of people saw after it was forced into public much later—showed Laquan walking away from the cops, with arms at his sides, when he was shot. Only after the meeting at area central did the pigs who were at the scene write their reports and get interviewed by the “investigating” detective, David March. Two of the reports—by Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, and by Thomas Gaffney—falsely echoed Van Dyke’s lying claim that he was acting in defense of his life to stop McDonald. The reports used basically identical language: that McDonald had committed “battery” right before Van Dyke shot him and was “aggressively” swinging a knife toward the police... and that after Laquan was shot and on the ground, he was still a “threat” because he kept trying to get up with the knife in his hand.

March, Walsh, and Gaffney were the three cops just acquitted by the judge—even though they were clearly guilty of lying about and covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald. But the fact is, it was an outrage to begin with that these three cops were the only ones even put on trial for the cover-up.

March’s report concluding that the shooting of Van Dyke was justified was reviewed and signed off on by a high-ranking deputy chief (who was later allowed to retire with a full pension). That was just the beginning. The machinery of the city administration geared up to protect the murdering police and conceal the truth. The police chief saw the dashcam video, and everyone from the “Independent” Police Review Authority, the district attorney, the city’s legal counsel, and all the way up to the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who fought in court to try to prevent the video from being released had either seen it or been told exactly what it showed. They all knew about—and conspired in—the lies and concealment of the truth. All those involved in this criminal cover-up should have been indicted in their role in aiding and abetting the murder of Laquan!

Ex-Prosecutor Judge Gives Green Light to Murder and Lies by Police

During the course of the trial, a major part of the defense by the three pigs was—once again, as was the case during Van Dyke’s trial—to demonize Laquan McDonald and paint him as responsible for his own death. These pigs, who systematically lied in their reports, were given free rein by the judge to claim that the murder of a 17-year-old Black youth was justified because cops claimed their lives were in “danger.”

In the trial of Van Dyke, even with the lackluster prosecution, the jury concluded that the dashcam video showed what actually happened, and found him guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. March, Walsh, and Gaffney opted for a bench trial—a trial before a judge, not a jury. Judge Domenica Stephenson is not only a former prosecutor, like many judges in Cook County, Chicago courts (see box)—when she was a prosecutor, she had worked closely with the lawyer of one of the defendants in this trial.

Along with letting the cops’ lawyers attack Laquan, Judge Stephenson also allowed wild and unfounded attacks by the defense on the personal character and integrity of witnesses against the police:

  • At one point, one of the pigs’ attorneys grilled a Latino man, Mr. Torres, who, along with his son, was driving by the scene of Laquan’s murder and had pulled over and saw the cops shoot the Black youth. When these two eyewitnesses went to the cops and offered to tell what they had seen, they were told to go away. At the trial, the pig lawyer demanded to know why he hadn’t called 911. Mr. Torres answered that when you call 911, you get the police who were already there.
  • One cop who was at the scene of Laquan’s murder testified that Detective March pressured her to lie in her report about what she saw—and when she refused, he altered her report without her knowledge to make it sound like Laquan was a threat. The defense savagely attacked this whistle-blower cop, accusing her of lying to save her job so she wouldn’t have to return to working at a fast food joint. She testified that as a result of refusing to go along with the cover-up, she has been labeled a rat in the police department and put on desk duty for fear that her fellow pigs would put her in harm’s way on the street.

The judge’s ruling not only totally exonerated the only three pigs charged in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder (among all those who were involved in this cover-up within the whole police department and city government hierarchy), but completely endorsed the lies pigs told to justify the murder. She went to great lengths, in a tone of barely disguised ridicule, to attack the testimony of the one cop who had not cooperated completely with the cover-up. She ruled (in direct refutation of what the jury in the Van Dyke trial decided) that the dashcam video doesn’t “show the vantage point” of the cops and therefore does not contradict what the cops’ wrote in their reports claiming Laquan posed a threat to their lives. She justified the cops’ assertion that they were the “victims”(!) of “battery” and that Laquan was the “offender.”

This acquittal amounts to a big, flashing green light for police all across the country to continue, and even step up, the brutality, murder, lying and terror that they carry out against Black people.

Dashcam Video of Officer Jason Van Dyke Shooting Laquan McDonald

Police murder Laquan McDonald at 5 minute mark


Bob Avakian, "Yes there's a conspiracy, to get the cops off."

"Yes there's a conspiracy... to get the cops off" Is a clip from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, given in 2003 in the United States. More about Bob Avakian here


Crook County Judges

In her 2016 book Crook County, Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve exposed the racism and injustice in the Cook County, Chicago courts, known as “America’s largest criminal court.” In a New York Times op-ed published around the time the book came out, Van Cleve wrote that racist practices rampant in the Chicago police department “extend far into the criminal courts, indeed they are the very foundation of the cases that enter into the court system. The hands of many judges and prosecutors are just as dirty as the bigots in blue.” When she worked as a clerk in the Cook County prosecutor’s office, cops would regularly utter racist stuff at the courthouse, like calling Black men “dogs.” And, “Prosecutors and judges often participated in this culture. They spoke in overtly racist ways in court, mocked defendant’s black-sounding names or used bastardized Ebonics to imitate the voices of defendants, families and victims. In their eyes, defendants were to blame for their poverty, an ideology that justified a host of abuses of defendants, victims, witnesses or anyone with black or brown skin who found themselves in the court.” In her book, Van Cleve noted the close connections between Cook County judges and prosecutors in particular: “Three-quarters [of the judges] had been prosecutors.... As a result, judges ... come from the community within—accountable to the norms and practices of their longtime colleagues and friends. A private attorney described this insular culture as a good-ol’-boys club where judges are not only accountable to their former peers but have a desire to be in the prosecutors’ inner circle.”


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