Jason Van Dyke Trial Begins, Four Murder Counts Dropped

'Not a single shot was necessary or justified' argues prosecution in opening statements.

Jason Van Dyke arrives for the opening day of his trial
Scott Olson / Getty Images

'Not a single shot was necessary or justified' argues prosecution in opening statements.

Jason Van Dyke, charged with murder for the shooting of Laquan McDonald, saw his trial begin on Monday with some mixed news for the defense reports the Chicago Tribune.

On Friday Van Dyke chose a jury trial, as reported by the Inquisitr,which set off a string of motions from his defense on Monday morning. The requests came in a closed-door meeting in Judge Vincent Gaughan’s chambers.

The first request from the defense was to dismiss the entire panel of jurors arguing that it would be impossible for the jury to be impartial because they had been exposed to protesters and thus would be scared to acquit Van Dyke. Judge Gaughan rejected the request saying that a fair jury was selected and would not be dismissed.

Upon rejection of that request the defense continued the argument that the coverage surrounding the crime would prejudice the jury to argue that the trial should be moved outside Cook County. The prosecution countered that Cook County residents were entitled to a public trial. The motion was denied with the judge pointing out that the jury was under oath and that he trusted the process to weed out any unfair jurors.

A final request was made to stop the prosecution from saying that other officers didn’t fire their weapons, which was again denied. The defense responded by revealing that Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, would testify that he would have fired if Van Dyke wasn’t in his line of fire.

There was one win in those closed-door meetings for the defense, however, as the prosecution dropped four counts of murder, bringing the total charges to two counts of murder, 16 of aggravated battery and one of official misconduct. That will give the prosecution a lower burden as well, and the move is typically done to help the prosecution get the conviction.

The prosecution used their opening statement to give the jury a walk-through of the shooting with a minute-by-minute run through of the events. Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon held up the blade that McDonald carried and suggested that Van Dyke should have used a taser.

“Not a single shot was necessary or justified.”

McMahon showed video in which an officer, Joseph McElligott, arrived on scene before Van Dyke, and trailed McDonald on foot but never pulled his gun. The video then showed Van Dyke opening fire on McDonald just six seconds after arriving, and began to reload after he shot the victim, not stopping his reloading until his partner told him to stop. The defense tried to prevent the prosecution from using this video.

The prosecution went quickly to the race argument stating that it was the teenager’s race that was part of the motivation for Van Dyke to shoot.

In the defense’s opening statement, they argued that the video didn’t show the full story, and said that McDonald was “on a wild rampage through the city” the day before the shooting. The defense argued that as the shooting was legal, there was no crime, showing a video of McDonald flinging his arm out and arguing this was an aggressive move.