Van Dyke Sentence a Complicated ‘Victory’ for McDonald Family

The sentencing of Jason Van Dyke raised questions across the city about criminal justice and police reform.

Many are asking how it’s possible for someone convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm to be handed a sentence of fewer than seven years in prison. Others – namely, Van Dyke’s defense team – say they’re happy with the ruling.

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“If [Van Dyke] was sentenced to one minute, it is a victory,” said Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, at a press conference Friday after an emotional day of testimony followed by the judge’s ruling.

“It is a victory because what has happened in this courtroom today has never in the history of this county, and it sets a precedent and a strong message to unjust police officers that now you can and will go to jail if you’re caught lying, caught breaking the law,” he said.

But days later, Hunter says he takes issue with the judge’s decision to sentence Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder charge.

“As if to suggest that the jury didn’t even consider [the 16 counts of aggravated battery]. He didn’t have a right—this wasn’t a bench trial and he flipped it over,” Hunter said.

The decision echoes longstanding issues within the justice system at a local and national level, he said, which is why he’d like to start a justice summit in Chicago.

“We decided that we would bring some the best civil rights minds, lawyers that we can find in a room and sit down and begin to have a conversation about how we can change laws, about what laws really need changing, in order for African American people to become full citizens in this country,” he said.

Hunter didn’t offer any possible dates for the summit, but he said preliminary discussions about it will begin Tuesday.

Hunter joins Carol Marin in discussion.

Related stories:

Laquan McDonald and the Future of Police Reform in Chicago

Jason Van Dyke Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison

Special Prosecutors: Jason Van Dyke Should Spend 18 Years or More in Prison

Following Verdict, Rev. Marvin Hunter Calls for Change, Healing

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