A Cook County judge agreed to a prosecutors’ argument to ban the word “victim” in the case of Laquan McDonald and Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, an officer of the Chicago Police Department has been charged with first-degree murder after shooting McDonald to death in 2014. The cop claimed it was self-defense and his defense attorneys claimed the word “victim” could be biased to the case according to CNN.
Prosecutor Jody Gleason argued that there is a victim and there’s a person who died. Judge Vincent Gaughan agreed with the defense and said it’s the jury’s job to decide if either the officer or the 17-year-old boy was the victim.
However, Jeffrey Toobin, the chief legal analyst of CNN said he found the judge’s choice to be peculiar. He added, “The main issue in the case is whether McDonald was a ‘victim’ or a threat to the officer. The judge could conclude that use of that word is prejudicial to the defendant.”
Prosecutors are only allowed to use the word “victim” in their closing argument “if the evidence supports it,” Gaughan noted. He also ruled that defense attorneys could use “homicide” instead of murder in court because it “is not so loaded that it’s unfairly prejudicial.”
The Chicago judge added, “Here we have the defense of self-defense. So, if it’s justified, justified use of force, then there is no victim… 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.”
McDonald was shot to death by officer Van Dyke three years ago and camera footage showed the police lied about the incident. They claimed the 17-year-old at the time lunged towards them with a knife, but the video showed the teen backing away from the police with the weapon.
Van Dyke arrived on scene a few minutes later and shot McDonald six seconds later. He opened fire on the victim 16 times and every bullet hit the teen’s body. The camera footage was released in 2015.
The ex-officer is scheduled for trial on September 5. If he’s found guilty he could face life in prison. His trial will be the first Chicago officer charged with first-degree murder since 1980.