Suburban prosecutor in Laquan McDonald case: 'We can do better'

  • Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon delivered some pointed words, and specific suggestions for change, in a statement this week about the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

      Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon delivered some pointed words, and specific suggestions for change, in a statement this week about the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2018

  • Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon served as special prosecutor in the 2018 trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

    Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon served as special prosecutor in the 2018 trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, 2018

 
Posted6/5/2020 5:20 AM

As the size and frequency of protests over the death of George Floyd grow, more and more suburban law enforcement leaders are sharing their thoughts on the killing and civil unrest that's followed.

None have offered more pointed words -- or more potential solutions -- than Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

McMahon has special insight into the relationship between the black community and law enforcement. As a special prosecutor in 2018, he won a murder conviction against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the 2014 slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

In a lengthy statement this week, and shared with us by Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Harry Hitzeman, McMahon said the fatal shooting of McDonald and other high-profile killings of black citizens by police reveals "an ugly side" of life in America.

"I hoped that law enforcement had learned from 2014 and progressed," he wrote. "Clearly, not all of them have or care to."

McMahon said the anger and protests stirred by Floyd's killing are not only understandable but a responsibility.

"Our nation was forged on protest -- the raising of voices and fists by those who were not heard," he wrote. "We should expect no less today, but let's do it in a way that is loud but peaceful, thoughtful, urgent, inclusive and long-term."

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After the protests

While similar words have been echoed by many in recent days, McMahon doesn't stop there. He calls for specific actions to address the racial inequities he sees, starting in schools and police stations.

"Children who grow up and go to school on the North Shore of Chicago get a very different education than kids in Auburn Gresham," he wrote. "Lincoln Park and Washington Park may as well be two different countries. Although Naperville and Aurora share a border, they are very different communities."

He calls on the state General Assembly to equalize school funding and classroom sizes across the state so children everywhere receive a similar education.

He also suggests two significant changes in police policy: shifting the standard that allows an officer to legally use deadly force from "reasonable belief" of imminent danger to one in which it is "necessary," and training officers to use force only when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury, and even then to use the least amount necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Officers also should face legal consequences if they fail to intervene when a colleague uses excessive force.

"This should be standard practice, but making it the law with consequences will reduce the likelihood that those who do step in will face backlash from fellow officers," he wrote.

McMahon says those who work in the judicial system need to recognize their failures in addressing police misconduct.

"Too often when a police officer commits egregious misconduct, there are no consequences, and after a period of suspension or termination (the officer) is reinstated by an arbitration system that is unaccountable," he writes. "Accuracy and consistency in criminal justice creates confidence in the promise of equal rights and protection."

In the end, McMahon poses some questions a lot of us are probably asking ourselves these days.

"I, like many across Kane County and our nation, ask myself if I have contributed to the discord," McMahon wrote. "Have I done my part to strengthen the fabric of America? What have I learned since 2014, the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s? We have made some progress, but we can do better."

Right to bear arms

It was a bit jarring for many early Wednesday evening when they spotted a man standing outside a downtown Batavia liquor store toting a rifle, several hours after a peaceful protest nearby had dispersed.

A photo of the man made the rounds on social media, leading Batavia police to investigate. And after consulting with the Kane County state's attorney's office, police concluded no law was being broken.

"This was a very complex investigation," said Detective Michelle Langston.

Turns out the store had hired the man to provide security amid fears of looting. The gun was legally owned and possessed. And as long as the man was on private property but not inside the building -- which would have violated a liquor law -- he "was within his rights to do what he was doing," Langston said.

Records request granted

The high school records of a woman stabbed to death nearly five years ago in her Woodridge apartment may come into play in the murder trial of her accused killer.

Launden Luckett
Launden Luckett -

DuPage County Judge Jeffrey MacKay on Tuesday granted Launden Luckett's motion to get the records from Oswego High School. Luckett, who is representing himself, claims the records will show Cecily M. Dickey had a violent nature. Dickey attended the school from January 2003 to December 2007, according to Luckett's request.

Luckett, 32, is charged with stabbing Dickey, his 26-year-old girlfriend, to death on Oct. 17, 2015. An argument between the two had turned physical, authorities say.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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