Former police officer Jason Van Dyke (L) — here at a January 18, 2019 hearing — was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for firing 16 bullets into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black, in 2014 (Antonio Perez)
Chicago (AFP) – The supreme court in the US state of Illinois rejected a rare effort by prosecutors to increase the jail sentence imposed on an ex-police officer convicted of murdering a Chicago teen.
Jason Van Dyke, who is white, was sentenced in January to nearly seven years in prison for firing 16 bullets into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an African American, in a 2014 confrontation.
The killing, caught on police video, ignited a political firestorm in America’s third-largest city.
Van Dyke was convicted of enough serious charges to send him to jail for decades. But the presiding judge used his discretion to sentence the former officer to a relatively short jail term.
The state’s top prosecutor took the rare step of filing an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court asking justices to reverse the judge’s decision and force a longer sentence.
On Tuesday, the high court declined to do so.
Two dissenting justices said the judge’s actions were contrary to the law and court precedent.
“Fundamentally, this matter involves a dispute on discretionary sentencing issues,” Justice Thomas Kilbride wrote in his partial dissent.
“The trial court’s actions here were clearly improper as a matter of law,” he said.
The appeal had asserted that the trial judge was wrong to sentence Van Dyke on his conviction of second degree murder, rather than on the 16 charges of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The battery charges held the potential of a longer sentence.
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