Prosecutors are not allowed to call Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black teen, who was killed by a Chicago police officer, a “victim,” until closing arguments, the judge presiding over the case said on Wednesday, CNN reports.
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s defense attorneys have claimed that he shot McDonald in October 2014 out of self-defense.
Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder, per CNN.
His attorneys presented Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan with nearly two dozens motions that would prohibit certain testimony and evidence saying that it would be prejudicial against their client.
Gaughan told prosecutor Jody Gleason, who argued there was a victim in the case, that he’s leaving it up to the jury to decide if McDonald was a victim.
“Here we have the defense of self-defense. So, if it’s justified, justified use of force, then there is no victim,” Gaughan said. “Certainly, there is a person that’s dead as a result of this tragic situation but that doesn’t mean that the person is a victim legally.”
Adding that they can refer to McDonald as a “victim” during closing arguments, but only “if the evidence supports it.”
Van Dyke claimed that McDonald lunged at him with a knife in the October 2014 and that he was “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner,” per CNN. Other officers at the time backed up that claim.
Dashcam footage released November 2015 contradicted what Van Dyke said and showed McDonald walking away from law enforcement, according to CNN.
Defense attorneys asked the judge for the footage not to be used during the trial, something that the judge shot down.
“Certainly, you’re going to be allowed to play the dashcam video,” Gaughan told Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon, who called the video “a central piece of evidence.”
Van Dyke was also charged with firearm offenses and faces up to life in prison.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.