Illinois Supreme Court Won’t Review Sentence for Laquan McDonald’s Murderer

CHICAGO (CN) – Without explanation, the Illinois Supreme Court denied the Illinois Attorney General’s petition to resentence former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who received just six years prison time for murdering black teen Laquan McDonald.

Four Illinois Supreme Court justices – three Republican and one Democrat – voted Tuesday to deny Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s petition seeking a tougher sentence for former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for killing Laquan McDonald.

Two Supreme Court justices – Thomas Kilbride and P. Scott Neville – dissented, and Justice Mary Jane Theis did not take part in the decision. All three of these justices are Democrats.

Second-degree murder carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, but Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke to less than seven years.

At sentencing, Judge Gaughan laid out the legal question before him: “Was it more serious for Laquan McDonald to be shot by a firearm or is it more serious for Laquan McDonald to be murdered by a firearm?”

Judge Gaughan believed that the murder charge was primary, and thus opted not to order any sentence for the aggravated battery charges — each of which would otherwise carry a term of between six and 30 years.

In Raoul’s push for a court review of the sentence, he argued that Van Dyke should have been sentenced on all the counts for which he was convicted.

“The majority’s denial, without explanation, does not confirm whether Judge Gaughan’s sentence is consistent with Illinois law. Nonetheless, we recognize and respect the Court’s authority, which it can exercise without a specific request,” the Illinois attorney general said in a statement responding to Tuesday’s ruling.

“However, two justices wrote separately to dissent from the denial, recognizing that the sentence was inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and that the Court could and should grant the requested relief by exercising its supervisory authority,” Raoul continued.

Justice Kilbride wrote in his dissent that Judge Gaughan “expressly relied on an argument made by a dissenting justice in People v. Lee. Without question, that dissent does not represent the law in Illinois. Thus, the trial court’s actions here were clearly improper as a matter of law.”

Justice Neville separately critiqued Gaughan’s sentencing.

“Although Lee clearly and definitively held that aggravated battery with a firearm is a more serious offense than second degree murder, respondent sentenced Van Dyke on second degree murder and declined to impose sentence on the 16 convictions for aggravated battery with a firearm,” Neville said.

With good time credit, Van Dyke will serve about half of his 81-month term, and end up in prison for only three years.

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