Judge pushes decision on unsealing court records until after Jason Van Dyke’s sentencing

Evan Popp | November 1, 2018

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of seven media organizations have asked that the Circuit Court of Cook County unseal all documents previously kept secret in the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer convicted of the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald.

However, in a hearing Oct. 31, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan said he doesn’t plan to release any of the sealed documents until after Van Dyke’s sentencing. No sentencing date has been set yet. The coalition asked for a hearing on the unsealing motion two days after the sentencing, which Judge Gaughan agreed to. Judge Gaughan indicated that the sentencing will take place after post-trial motions are decided and will likely be sometime in December.   

In the motion, the coalition argued releasing sealed documents to the public from the Van Dyke trial would "increase transparency in a case of significant public interest."

Gaughan previously stated that some of the documents under seal would eventually be released to the public, but held back on unsealing them during the trial because of concerns that some of the records could prejudice the jury. The coalition argued that since the trial is now over, there is no risk that unsealing the documents would interfere with Van Dyke’s right to a fair trial.

Read the coalition’s full brief here.