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Officer’s attorney can’t see records of Chicago teen, judge rules

Associated Press

CHICAGO – Lawyers for the Chicago police officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald will not have access to the victim’s juvenile records, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Jason Van Dyke has no legal right to the confidential files simply because he is charged criminally with the teen’s death, Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Patricia Martin ruled.

“I don’t find you have a special interest in these files,” Martin said, citing the state’s Juvenile Court Act.

Defense attorney Daniel Herbert argued he needed to review McDonald’s file to prepare for trial.

“I can’t tell you what my reason for looking is because I don’t know what’s in there,” defense attorney Steven Rueckert said before the judge’s ruling, according to the Chicago Tribune.

McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, had objected to release of the records, as well as the special prosecutor appointed to the case.

In another case involving a fatal shooting, officials say they won’t identify the officers involved in the July 28 shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, who also was black.

The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police misconduct, declined to give the Chicago Tribune such information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. It cited state law that allows withholding information if disclosure would endanger life or physical safety. The Chicago Police Department also has declined to name the officers, citing a union contract clause that prevents naming uncharged officers during pending disciplinary matters.

Police released body camera and dashcam video last week from the July 28 shooting of O’Neal, who was suspected of stealing a car. Superintendent Eddie Johnson has stripped three officers of their police powers, citing potential policy violations.

Last year’s release of dashcam videos showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times prompted an investigation of Chicago police practices by the U.S. Justice Department and promises of reforms by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It also sparked days of protests.

Records of McDonald’s history with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, usually confidential, were made public last year after the video.

They revealed McDonald suffered abuse and neglect when he was a toddler, that he was in and out of foster care and had a history of arrests for drugs and petty crimes. The records also showed McDonald told caseworkers of run-ins with police, telling of stitches to close a cut on his chin after a police officer stepped on his head during an arrest for marijuana possession.

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