Three Chicago officers, accused of conspiring to cover up the 2014 Laquan McDonald murder, were acquitted of all charges on Thursday, January 17. The three men, Officer Joseph Walsh, Officer Thomas Gaffney, and Detective David March, had allegedly filed false police reports after McDonald's shooting in an attempt to protect convicted officer Jason Van Dyke, who was seen on dashcam video firing 16 shots at the black teenager. The officers were accused of conspiracy, official misconduct, and obstruction of justice, according to the NY Times.

Arguments For Acquittal

Prosecutors built arguments around footage of the incident, stating that the accounts given by the three officers had contradicted video evidence. Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson, however, refuted this statement by arguing, "Two people with two different vantage points can witness the same event,” and may describe it differently according to the NY Times. Therefore, although the officers' accounts differed from what was shown on the video, this could not be considered to be adequate proof of deception.

Judge Stephenson also stated it was "undisputed and undeniable" that Laquan had ignored officers’ orders to drop his knife and reiterated that after being knocked down to the ground, McDonald was still moving and holding a knife and may have still been seen as a threat according to the Dailymail.

The jury that convicted officer Jason Van Dyke held a different view of the situation, however, suggesting that McDonald's movements were largely caused by Dyke's prolonged shooting. In October 2018, just a few months prior to this ruling, the officer was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery of the 17-year-old black teenager said the Dailymail.

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Judge Stephenson rejected prosecutor's claims that the officers had driven away witnesses then tried to justify the shooting with a false narrative She also denied the claim that officers had tried to hide evidence. "The evidence shows just the opposite," she stated, referring to the video, which had played a central role in the case.

Reactions to the Acquittal

After the reading, Todd Pugh, Mr. Walsh's lawyer, commended Judge Stephenson on her bravery in maintaining her stance despite pressure from the public to give a guilty verdict. The verdict itself prompted applause from several audience members. But not everyone was pleased.

Outraged, Rev. Martin Hunter, Laquan's great-uncle stated that "the verdict says to police officers that you can lie, cheat, steal, rape, rob, and pillage, and it’s O.K." The outcome differed from the Van Dyke case, and as such, immediately rose questions for McDonald's family. But they weren't the only ones who saw the injustice.

Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president, calls it, “a devastating step backward.”

Many Twitter users saw the verdict as proof that racism is still alive and rampant in the US.

What are your thoughts on the court ruling? Do you think the judge gave the right verdict, or is there a very important conversation to be had?