Judge to Decide Verdict in Chicago Police Cover-up Trial

on Jan17

17 January 2019 | 11:51 am

The long-awaited verdict was expected Thursday in the trial of three Chicago police officers accused of covering up the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Det. David March and officers Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney face felony charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to prevent or shape the investigation.

Prosecutors claim the three conspired in lying and falsifying reports to conceal what really happened the night Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot McDonald.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in October 2018. He was slated to be sentenced Friday.

All three officers were on the scene on Oct. 20, 2014, when Van Dyke fired 16 shots at 17-year-old McDonald, according to prosecutors.

Walsh, 48, was Van Dyke’s partner at the time and allegedly gave conflicting accounts about the events leading up to the shooting, which was captured on dashcam video.

March, 58, was lead detective at the time of McDonald’s shooting death. He wrote in reports after McDonald’s death that Van Dyke was in defense of his life when he backpedaled and opened fire – a narrative that was contradicted by the dashcam video released more than a year later.

Prosecutors say March, Walsh and Gaffney, 43, “conspired in the critical early hours and days… to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald… to shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution,” special prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement announcing the charges in June 2017.

The officers allegedly lied about what occurred and mischaracterized the video recordings so that investigators would not know what happened and that the public would not see the video recordings, Holmes claimed.

Defense attorneys contended that there’s no evidence of a cover-up. At the center of the case are the reports filed on the shooting, which prosecutors said contradict many of the officers’ statements. 

Defense attorneys, however, argue the three officers stand to lose their freedom over a few disputed words.

It will be up to the judge to decide whether the discrepancies amount to early confusion, or a conspiracy by the three to distort the truth.

Judge Domenica Stephenson was expected to announce her verdict in the three men’s trial Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m., more than a month after the final witness testified.

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