[01/22/19] – Sentencing and Acquittals Handed Down in the 2014 Laquan McDonald Murder Case

Jason Van Dyke, a former Chicago police officer, was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for the murder of Laquan McDonald in 2014. The three police officers, which include Van Dyke’s partner, were acquitted of trying to cover up the murder. Van Dyke’s murder conviction and the acquittal of the three police officers highlight a series of issues in the criminal justice system, such as the stark differences in sentencing for those involved in the murder, as well as the ‘code of silence’ inherent in police department culture across the country.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Sentencing and Acquittals Handed Down in the 2014 Laquan McDonald Murder Case






  • Writing: Why are the decisions in both of these cases significant?
  • Debate: The three police officers should not have been acquitted of trying to cover-up Laquan’s murder.
  • Poll: Do you think that Jason Van Dyke’s sentence was too lenient?
  • Short Answer: The decisions in both of the cases related to Laquan’s murder yielded different results. What issues were highlighted in both of these cases?


Current Events Quiz

  1. Judge Vincent Gaughan based his sentencing decision for Jason Van Dyke on which of the following charges?

a. second-degree murder

b. aggravated battery with a firearm

c. first-degree murder

d. aggravated assault

  1. The prosecution in Jason Van Dyke’s case asked for which of the following sentences?

a. probation

b. 18-20 years in prison

c. 25 to life with the possibility of parole

d. life imprisonment without the possibility of parole

  1. The Department of Justice launched an investigation that found all of the following EXCEPT for

a. the Chicago Police Department has a code of silence culture.

b. the Chicago Police Department has a history of using excessive use of force.

c. the Chicago Police Department has routinely violation the rights of minorities.

d. all of these are correct

  1. The key piece of evidence in both of the cases related to Laquan’s murder was two eyewitness reports. (T/F)
  1. Van Dyke’s sentencing is eligible for reduction for good behavior. (T/F)
  1. According to the prosecutor in the case of the three acquitted police officers, the code of silence was on trial. (T/F)


Featured image: C. Presutti/VOA/Wikimedia Commons

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