Chicago officer picks jury trial in teen's shooting death

CHICAGO (AP) — Attorneys for a white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald announced Friday that they will stick with a jury rather than asking the judge to decide his fate.

Judge Vincent Gaughan had set a Friday deadline for Jason Van Dyke to say whether he wanted to switch to a bench trial, in which Gaughan would have heard the evidence and rendered a verdict.

Defense attorney Daniel Herbert offered no reasons in court for going ahead with a jury, which is scheduled to begin hearing opening statements Monday. Some legal experts had said the defense team might believe chances of an acquittal in the emotionally charged case would improve with a judge.

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Laquan McDonald (R) walks on a road before he was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, in this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke sits in the courtroom during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool File Photo
A wreath with the words "Rest In Peace Laquan McDonald" stands at the site where the 17-year-old McDonald was shot 16 times and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in an October 2014 incident on the west side of Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond until he is due back in court on November 30. REUTERS/Frank Polich
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: In this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera relased by the Chicago Police Department on November 24, 2015 , Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Officer Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 07: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer outside the mayor's office in City Hall on December7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old McDonald on October 20, 2014, hitting him with 16 bullets. Van Dyke was charged with murder more than a year after the shooting following a judge's orders to release to the public a police video of the shooting. Today, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department will open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18 : Chicago police officers surround a police vehicle as they watch demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald December 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder last month in the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald last year, was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct earlier this week. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 31: Demonstrators calling the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stage a 'die-in' inside of City Hall on December 31, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The shooting deaths by police of a 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones and a recently released video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke have sparked dozens of protests in the city. Yesterday Emanuel announced several changes that would take place in the police department with the hope of preventing future incidents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
during protests in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015 reacting to the release of a police video of the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white policeman, Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was charged with murder in the incident. REUTERS/Jim Young
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURY Laquan McDonald walks on a road (top L -R) and is subsequently shot (bottom R) by police officer Jason Van Dyke (not pictured) in Chicago, in this combination of still images taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. TEMPLATE OUT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A protester demonstrates in response to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 25, 2015. Laquan McDonald, 17, was fatally shot by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, in October 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles
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After saying his client opted for a jury trial, Herbert told the judge that Van Dyke didn't necessarily want the jurors who were vetted and selected over the past week. The 12-person jury is made up of seven whites, three Hispanics, one African-American and one Asian-American. Attorneys also picked five alternates.

The presence of demonstrators and police outside the courthouse from the start of jury selection sent the message that hearing evidence in this trial could be dangerous, Herbert told the judge.

"The jury panel was prejudiced upon arrival," he said.

Gaughan denied the request, saying none of the jurors expressed fear for their safety during questioning this week.

Herbert also renewed his request that the trial be moved from Cook County, where Chicago is located, to a location that hasn't been saturated with news about the case. Gaughan said he would decide that question after swearing in the last jurors Monday — a strong indication that he has no intention of agreeing to a change of venue.

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Protests in Chicago following Laquan McDonald shooting
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Protests in Chicago following Laquan McDonald shooting
Protesters form a line and walk holding signs that spell out 'Laquan' following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015, in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters take to the streets in Chicago following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators confront police during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Police stand guard as demonstrators march through downtown during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Bus passengers watch as demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty; his attorneys have contended that he was in fear for his life when he shot McDonald 16 times. Video shows Van Dyke opening fire as the 17-year-old walks away from police with a knife in his hand.

The video will be a centerpiece of prosecutors' presentation and could tug at jurors' emotions, turning some against Van Dyke. A trial decided by a no-nonsense, veteran judge such as Gaughan could have made it difficult for prosecutors to appeal to emotion, potentially to Van Dyke's advantage.

One reason convictions of officers for on-duty shootings are so rare is because the central issue is whether officers believed the person was a danger to them or their fellow officers — not whether the person truly was a danger.

"Defense attorneys must have seen that some of these jurors may accept Van Dyke's (argument) that he was doing what he was trained to do," Chicago-based jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer said.

He also noted the defense occasionally sparred with the judge, including over the change-of-venue motion.

"They might feel they got on this judge's nerves," he said.

During jury selection, most prospective jurors said they had seen the video of the shooting, and some who were excused said they could not be impartial.

Its release in November 2015 sparked large protests, the ouster of the police superintendent and demands for police reform.

Jury trials tend to move more slowly than bench trials, in part, because more time is required to explain the trial process and the law to jurors.

One thing that's only possible with a jury: a hung jury. That could happen if at least one panelist refuses to join the majority.

"For the defense, a hung jury is a win," said Beth Foley, atrial consultant in Chicago.

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