Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer who shot 16-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, received a sentence of six years and nine months for the murder.
Despite outcry from the community and its leaders, Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon — who had recommended a minimum sentence of 18 years — insisted that justice had been served, calling the sentence “significant.”
The paltry sentence was given in light of testimony from multiple black men who experienced their own violent encounters with Van Dyke, indicating a long-standing record of abuse and racial bias.
One witness, Vidale Joy, claimed that Van Dyke pulled him over as he was leaving a gas station in August 2005 and put a gun to his temple after calling him the n-word.
In addition to witnesses like Joy, McDonald’s own uncle, Reverend Marvin Hunter, addressed the jury and read a letter written from his nephew’s perspective.
“What happened to me can never be changed. But other young black men and women would not have to face Mr. Jason Van Dyke and his evil and selfish ways. Why should this person, who has ended my life forever because he chose to become judge, jury, and executioner, and has never asked for forgiveness, be free, when I am dead forever?”
Much of the mainstream media focused in on the testimonies given by Van Dyke’s wife and daughter, Tiffany and Kaylee, respectively, calling Tiffany’s testimony in particular “perhaps the most emotional.”
Van Dyke’s wife cited the financial burden her husband’s actions and incarceration have had on the family, noting that she spends anywhere between $400 and $500 a month on phone calls.
She also says that she has missed out on work opportunities because of her husband’s reputation, and claims that her husband was just doing his job.
While her struggle cannot be denied, it must be considered in the context of the McDonald family’s struggle, which they must carry on without even the possibility of ever seeing their family member again.
Funeral costs may be a one-time affair in comparison to years of prison calls, but it is a price that comes with much more finality, and if we at ITP were to venture a guess, we would feel confident assuming that the McDonald family would gladly trade for the cost of prison calls any day.