McMahon's challenge: "Just so much in play," peers say
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon has prosecuted murder cases before.
But his role a special prosecutor in the first-degree murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke -- accused of gunning down Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black teen -- dwarfs those other cases in terms of scrutiny and being in the spotlight, local attorneys said Thursday.
"In any case you have involving media, it's always problematic," said Patrick Crimmins, a former Kane County assistant state's attorney now in private practice. "Everything you do is watched and scrutinized. This trial could be about race, police brutality, gangs. There's just so much in play. This is a big case. This is a meaningful case."
McMahon's legal team includes: Kane County First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason; Kane County Assistant State's Attorneys Joe Cullen and Dan Weiler; and Winnebago County First Assistant State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross.
"He couldn't have put together a better team. It's the biggest case for all of them. This is national," said Gary Johnson, an Aurora defense attorney who also served as Kane County state's attorney from December 1988 to December 1992.
Johnson said one challenge McMahon could face is that he might not have cooperation from the Chicago Police Department.
If McMahon secures a guilty verdict, could he be perceived as anti-cop or anti-law enforcement?
"The uninformed may feel that way, or people with an ax to grind," Johnson said. "Somebody's got to prosecute the case.
"He's got a job to do and he's going to do it right."
Said Crimmins: "It's a very volatile situation. That's why they have a special prosecutor."
Wayne Biles, who served 20 years as president of the Aurora police union and nearly 33 years on the department before retiring in 2008, said people and police should understand that McMahon is fulfilling his obligations and duty as a state's attorney.
"They know (McMahon and his team) will do the right thing. They're doing a case -- it's based on the law," Biles said.
"Their job is to get justice, no matter who it's for. They have to follow the law. They can't pick and choose. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Win or lose, I believe they will have done the best job they can do."
Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said McMahon will take a thorough and thoughtful approach to the case.
"He's always been someone who wants to know what the facts are and get to the truth of the matter," Swoboda said.
"He doesn't come into situations with any preconceived ideas. I don't know of anybody who is more levelheaded and fair."