The trial of three Chicago Police officers accused of lying to protect Jason Van Dyke during the investigation of the Laquan McDonald shooting resumes Tuesday, with a key ruling expected from Judge Domenica Stephenson.
When the trial went into recess last week, Stephenson had yet to decide whether Special Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes’ team would be allowed to introduce into evidence emails exchanged by higher-ranking officers, not the three defendants, officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joseph Walsh and ex-Det. David March.
Holmes had said in pre-trial filings that the prosecution would show a conspiracy among the three officers and numerous others involved in the shooting investigation to cover up for Van Dyke.
The emails could be crucial evidence as special prosecutors seek to prove their case that the officers engaged in a conspiracy to whitewash the McDonald shooting investigation, and a ruling barring them from going into the record would be a strong signal of what Stephenson thinks of the conspiracy case so far against Gaffney, Walsh and March.
The emails, nearly all of which are neither addressed to nor sent by one of the three officers, can only be admitted into evidence if Stephenson rules that the three days of testimony to date have showed there likely was a conspiracy to clear Van Dyke of wrongdoing.
The three officers have opted for a bench trial, so if Stephenson rules that prosecutors haven’t provided enough evidence for her to include the emails, it does not bode well for the odds of her finding the officers guilty of the conspiracy counts they face. The officers also face counts of obstruction of justice and official misconduct.
Holmes said last week that her team had only one more live witness set to testify— a CPD manager who is in charge of the email system — before resting its case. March’s lawyer, James McKay, last week announced a long list of potential witnesses he had subpoenaed.
Among the emails are messages exchanged between Lt. Anthony Wojcik and Sgt. Daniel Gallagher, March’s supervisors who signed off on his reports. Gallagher, according to emails reviewed by prosecutors, wrote a lengthy email to Wojcik two weeks after the shooting and before the CPD investigation had closed, that allegedly mischaracterized key information about the shooting and said that “we should be applauding (Van Dyke) and not second guessing him.”
Months after the investigation closed, both Gallagher and Wojcik received an email from another detective, asking Wojcik and Gallagher provide “items from inside the Chicago Police Department” to a non-profit legal group that was interested in representing Van Dyke against possible criminal charges.
Prosecutors also have alleged Gallagher forwarded emails from his CPD account to his personal account, messages that included information Gallagher had received from the FBI, under the pretext that department still was investigating Van Dyke.
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