Jason Van Dyke’s prison sentence for the murder of Laquan McDonald will not be overturned. In a 4-2 vote, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Tuesday that it would uphold Van Dyke’s original sentence of less than seven years for the cold-blooded killing of the Chicago teen.
Van Dyke faced 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for each of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one count for each shot he fired at McDonald.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the special prosecutor who won a murder conviction against former officer Jason Van Dyke, Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon filed the Writ of Mandamus because they felt Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan hadn’t properly applied the law when issuing his lenient prison sentence.
The writ, if it had been approved, would have forced Judge Gaughan to impose a tougher sentence on the defendant.
Although the six-year and nine month sentence for the former cop was the first imposed on a Chicago police officer for an on-duty shooting in fifty years, the fact that he was convicted of murder and not manslaughter matters. Second-degree murder is the intent to commit murder with malice aforethought. Van Dyke didn’t go into the situation with the intent or plan to kill McDonald so it wasn’t premeditated.
The high court didn’t give an explanation regarding its refusal to hear the case. But it stands to reason that the disregard for McDonald’s life could be politically connected. The majority vote came from the court’s three Republicans — Robert Thomas, Rita Garman and Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier and then adding, Anne Burke, a Democrat who is married to Chicago Alderman Edward Burke, a former Chicago police officer who is facing federal corruption charges.
The two justices who voted in favor of the motion discussed their views.
Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. wrote, specifically, that the court opinion on which Gaughan used as his guide to sentence Van Dyke was “the opposite” of the prevailing state law.
“The trial court’s actions here were clearly improper as a matter of law,” wrote Justice Thomas Kilbride.
“We recognize and respect the supreme court’s authority,” Raoul said in an afternoon news conference.
Prosecutors Raoul and McMahon may have exhausted all of their options and although they respect the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, the two men are keenly aware that Jason Van Dyke did not get the punishment he deserved for murdering Laquan McDonald.