The mother of slain teenager Laquan McDonald made a rare appearance in Cook County criminal court Thursday morning to testify before attorneys representing the Chicago police officer who shot and killed her son in 2014.
Tina Hunter arrived at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California Avenue just before 11 a.m. Thursday under a subpoena issued by attorneys for suspended Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. They have for weeks sought to bring Hunter into court to testify at a pretrial hearing about her son’s alleged prior criminal conduct.
That hearing was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but was delayed until Hunter and special prosecutor Joseph McMahon arrived at the courthouse. Once there, media and the public were removed and the courtroom was sealed before testimony began.
Beyond Hunter, defense attorneys have already called several other witnesses to testify about McDonald’s “violent and aggressive nature,” which may be used as evidence at trial because Van Dyke will likely claim he killed the teen in self-defense.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan previously ruled hearings involving these witnesses would be done behind closed doors. He reiterated that decision Thursday, stating there “may or may not be evidence heard that could affect the jury pool or a trial in the press or broadcast media.”
Van Dyke’s attorneys told Gaughan earlier this week that Hunter has been dodging a defense subpoena. They said they have twice sent a process server to her home to try and serve her, but both times have instead been met by a man who took the document.
Earlier this week, Gaughan said that if Hunter – who has not spoken publicly about her son’s death – did not appear Thursday, she would not be allowed to attend any part of the trial.
Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery after shooting McDonald 16 times as the teen walked along a Southwest Side road carrying a knife in October 2014.
Illinois state law permits defendants presenting such an argument to introduce evidence about the victim’s criminal past, even if the defendant wasn’t aware of that past at the time of the incident.
Gaughan will decide which, if any, of these witnesses will be allowed to testify at next month’s trial. He made no public announcement Thursday as to whether Hunter’s testimony has been deemed admissible.
Van Dyke’s trial is set to begin Sept. 5.
Below, a timeline of events related to the shooting.