Officials Want Longer Sentence on Laquan McDonald Murder

CHICAGO (CN) – Demanding a tougher punishment for the death of black teen Laquan McDonald, Illinois prosecutors filed court papers Monday to resentence former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke listens during a Sept. 6, 2018, hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. Van Dyke was convicted in October 2018 of second-degree murder and aggravated battery, and sentenced to seven years in prison in January 2019. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

About four years to the day of the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting, a jury convicted Van Dyke, 40, of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

Van Dyke’s conviction marked the first time in half a century that a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder for killing someone while on duty.

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

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon responded Monday by taking the rare step of petitioning the state Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus.

“It is important that a police officer was held accountable for criminal conduct,” McMahon said in a statement Monday. “But we argued at the sentencing hearing that Jason Van Dyke should be sentenced for the aggravated battery with a firearm convictions. The ability for the prosecution to challenge a sentence is very narrow, but this might be one of those situations.”

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 any of the aggravated battery charges —  each of which would otherwise be punished by carry a term of between six and 30 years.

If Van Dyke is not resentenced, he will serve half of the 81-month term with credit for good time, and end up in prison for only three years.

Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, but the jury acquitted on this count, finding that Van Dyke believed his life was in danger, although that belief was unreasonable.

McDonald, 17, was carrying a knife and walking away from police when Van Dyke fired 16 shots at him.

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