While the city is still fuming over the Jussie Smollett plea bargain, four Chicago cops are facing termination after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. At least part of the accusations surrounding that teen’s death claim that the police officers covered up key elements of the case to clean their hands in the shooting. While shooting deaths of young black men have taken center stage in the media over the past few years, resulting in the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement and riots in both Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, convictions of police acting in the line of duty remain rare.
Five Years Later, an Evidentiary Committee Will Decide Their Fate
While for many, it may appear reassuring that these four officers are being held accountable for the killing, there is an intriguing question as to why the case is being brought before committee now. Laquan McDonald was shot to death in 2014. Part of the reason has to do with whether or not the four officers involved in the shooting lied to investigators and gave false statements. However, five years seems an awfully long time for the officers to remain on the force while the slow wheels of internal affairs built a case against them.
The officers never faced any criminal charges for the shooting. However, Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder for putting 16 bullets into the 17-year-old. Despite the conviction, Van Dyke was never charged with administrative misconduct by the police force or its oversight agencies. Now, however, the four officers who are accused of lying for him are being charged administrative misconduct and may lose their jobs as a result.
Dashcam Seems to Refute Testimony
One of the officers, Daphne Sebastian, claimed that she saw McDonald advancing on Van Dyke with a knife, but dashcam footage appears to show McDonald running away from Van Dyke. Another officer, Ricardo Viramontes claimed that he saw McDonald attempt to get off the ground while waving with a knife in his hand. However, the dashcam does not show any of that and instead shows McDonald attempting to run away from Van Dyke and only moving on the ground once after he had been shot.
The ‘That’s My Perception’ Defense
While the officers are being accused of lying to investigators, their attorneys contend that they honestly answered the questions to the best of their recollection. This will put investigators into the position of proving what they knew or did not know. They will likely try to distance themselves from Van Dyke and his actions after the former police officer was convicted of second-degree murder.
It is very difficult to prove what someone did or didn’t know or if they simply lied or misremembered something. While the superintendent hoped to terminate the officers in 2016 (two years after the shooting) and recommendations were made to terminate another 12 officers who were there during the shooting, so far, no one besides Van Dyke has been held accountable.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
In cases in which the prosecution is forced to prove whether or not you lied or remembered something differently, their job is that much harder. David Freidberg, Attorney at Law represents those accused of filing false statements. Give us a call at (312) 560-7100 or contact us online to set up an appointment.
(image courtesy of Sawyer Bengtson)