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Chicago Officer Van Dyke Convicted in 2014 Killing Avoids U.S. Charges

Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer convicted of killing Black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014, will not face federal charges, the Associated Press reports. The U. S. Attorney said members of the McDonald family did not want to face a second trial. Prosecutors noted that convicting Van Dyke on federal charges would have required a much higher degree of proof than the state charges on which he was convicted. In the federal case, prosecutors “would have to prove not only that Mr. Van Dyke acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids, but also that his actions were not the result of mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment." The federal charges require prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Van Dyke was thinking when he used deadly force, and that he knew such force was excessive.


In 2014, Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times and was captured on video. He was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated murder in 2018, being sentenced to 81 months in prison. Van Dyke served less than half that sentence before his release in February. Civil rights leaders and activists were angry about the decision on no federal charges. The U.S. Attorney's office argued that even if a second conviction could be secured, the sentencing judge would consider factors like Van Dyke's time already served and his good conduct in state prison, which prompted his early release. The U.S. Attorney also pointed out that Van Dyke will never again serve as a police officer, and that his successful prosecution led to a host of reforms in Chicago. Chicago Police fought for months to prevent the release of the McDonald shooting videos, now videos of police shootings must be released within 60 days. When McDonald was killed, the public did not learn Van Dyke's identity until more than a year the shooting, when Van Dyke was charged. Now, the agency reviewing a police shooting will release the suspect's name.

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