Three Chicago policemen accused of conspiring to protect white fellow police officer Jason Van Dyke after he murdered a black teenager in 2014 will learn their fates on Thursday when a judge is due to give her verdict in their trial.
Van Dyke was found guilty in October of shooting Laquan McDonald, 17, in one of a series of police killings of black men and teens that has raised questions about the use of deadly force by police and sparked a series of sometimes violent street protests across the United States.
Judge Domenica Stephenson of the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County is expected to give her ruling on David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney at a hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. CST (1900 GMT). The trial began on Nov. 27.
The defendants - who have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice - face up to five years in prison for official misconduct, up to three years in prison for obstruction of justice and up to three or five years in prison for conspiracy.
Stephenson’s decision comes after a jury in October found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting of McDonald, who was in possession of a knife when he was shot 16 times.
A dashboard camera video released in 2015 - more than a year after the shooting - provided the evidence to convict Van Dyke in a case that laid bare tensions between the black community and police in the third-largest U.S. city.
Prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes has said Van Dyke’s colleagues offered accounts of the deadly incident that conflicted with video to shield Van Dyke from prosecution. Defense attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case lacks evidence.
The Van Dyke verdict was the first time an on-duty Chicago police officer was held criminally accountable for the killing of an African-American. The conviction followed numerous acquittals or mistrials of police officers facing criminal charges across the country in the deaths of black men.
The video of McDonald’s shooting prompted days of protests, the ouster of the city’s police superintendent and calls for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
Van Dyke, 40, is in jail awaiting sentencing, which is expected on Friday. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and up to 30 years for each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each shot he fired at McDonald.
Walsh and March, who was a detective, are no longer with the police force. Gaffney was suspended without pay.
Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, editing by G Crosse