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Judge Plans To Set Summer Trial Date For Officer Charged With Murder Of Laquan McDonald

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The judge overseeing the murder case against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, said he intends to begin the trial this summer.

Van Dyke was in court Wednesday morning for a status hearing in the case. He was indicted 27 months ago on first-degree murder charges, and the judge has yet to set a trial date.

During the hearing, Judge Vincent Gaughan said he plans to start the trial this summer.

"My plans are to have this case go to trial this summer. I'm not going to say the specific month, but it will go to trial this summer," he said.

Jason Van Dyke Hearing
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke attends a status hearing on March 28, 2018, in the first-degree murder case against him in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Credit: CBS)

Gaughan said Chicago's inclement weather was a factor in waiting until summer.

"With our weather, we don't know whether there would be snow storms. There could be accidents with the jurors coming to the courthouse, other things happening which would interrupt the trial, or actually the sworn jury. So I want the weather to be its best. That's something that we can have a little bit of control over, is what season it's in," he said.

Cook County prosecutors charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder in November 2015, and he was formally indicted a month later for shooting McDonald in October 2014. He wasn't charged until after the release of police dashcam video that contradicted initial reports that McDonald had lunged at police with a knife.

Video of the shooting shows McDonald walking away from Van Dyke when he opened fire, shooting the teenager 16 times.

Laquan McDonald Shooting Video
Dashcam footage showing a Chicago police officer fatally shoot Laquan McDonald. (Source; Chicago police)

Van Dyke's attorneys are seeking a change of venue for the trial, arguing he can't get a fair trial in Cook County. They have said the media coverage of the case has tainted the jury pool in Cook County. Gaughan has indicated he'll likely rule on the change of venue motion next month.

It's possible, if Gaughan does grant a change of venue, the trial would still be held at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, but the jury pool would be selected from people living outside Cook County.

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