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Jason Van Dyke's Attorneys Want Laquan McDonald's Juvenile Records

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jul 6, 2016 7:25PM

Jason Van Dyke / Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images

In a rare and controversial move, defense attorneys for Jason Van Dyke, the officer facing first-degree murder charges in shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, are requesting access to the victim's juvenile records, according to the Tribune.

The move is under fire from child legal advocacy groups. Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association of Counsel for Children, criticized the move as a victim-blaming obfuscation tactic. He told the Tribune:

"We keep child abuse records confidential to protect victims. Those records weren't created to serve the interests of perpetrators. For a defense attorney to mine the history of a child's victimization, to paint the child as a violent sociopath who deserved to die is the very definition of why these records should not be disclosed."

Terry Ekl, an attorney not connected to the case, told the paper it was not likely that a judge would approve such a request: "I don't fault them for looking under every rock to see if they can find something, but when you look at it objectively, I don't see how it would be admissible at trial," she said.

Cook County Judge Patricia Martin, the presiding judge of the Cook County Child Protection, will make the determination. Attorneys for Van Dyke did not comment about their motives.

McDonald was shot 16 times by police on October, 20 2014. The video was released to the public over a year later, in November 2015, immediately prior to Van Dyke being charged. The video prompted a wave of public protest, demands for reform and an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Tribune received access to McDonald's juvenile records last year and the portrait of McDonald that emerged was a sympathetic one of great hardship: his father abandoned the family; and he was in and out of foster care and protective custody following separate abuse allegations against his mother and her boyfriend. McDonald was enrolled at the Sullivan House Alternative School at the time of his fatal shooting.

The City Council scheduled hearings for Wednesday and Thursday to gather testimony on proposed changes to Chicago Police Department oversight procedures. Protestors demanding elected accountability council demonstrated ahead of the hearings on Wednesday.