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ABC News Chicago

Laquan McDonald's Family Begs For Peace Regardless Of Trial Outcome

In October 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke. The shooting, which further deepened the divide between the African-American community and law enforcement, initially didn't gain much attention outside of Chicago, until 13 months later when a judge ordered the release of the grainy dashcam footage.

Protests began immediately with many calling for justice.

On Tuesday (Sept. 4) McDonald's family gathered outside of Chicago's Grace Memorial Baptist Church and begged the public to remain peaceful, regardless of the outcome of Van Dyke's trial.

"We don't want any violence before, during or after ... the verdict in this trial," Rev. Martin Hunter said on behalf of the family. "Give the judge a chance to do his job, give a jury a chance to do their job."

Van Dyke, a white man, said he wouldn't have shot at the African-American teen had he not felt his life or someone else's was in danger. During the shooting, Van Dyke alleged McDonald lunged at him "swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner."

Dashcam footage, however, showed McDonald still being fired upon despite already being on the ground.

 

Jury selection began Wednesday (Sept. 5) for the case. Van Dyke faces six counts for first-degree murder and six counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and official misconduct. According to CNN, Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be charged with first-degree murder since 1980.

During an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke expressed remorse over killing McDonald but also fear about potential life in prison.

"I might be looking at the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job as I was trained as a Chicago police officer," he said.

READ MORE: Vic Mensa Releases Video For "16 Shots" Inspired By LaQuan McDonald Shooting

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Scott Olson

13-Year-Old Texas Girl Dies After Being Jumped Three Teenage Girls

A 13-year-old Texas girl was placed on life support after being jumped by three teenage girls last week, and the New York Daily News confirms the teen died.

Kashala Francis was walking home from Attucks Middle School Thursday (April 18) when she was jumped by two girls and kicked in the head by another. Cellphone recording of the incident shows the attackers laughing.

The girl's mother Mamie Jackson told reporters that Kashala came home with a bruise on her face, told her what happened but insisted she was fine. However, things quickly got worse.

That following Saturday, Jackson says Kashala went to a family member's house and was told she became delusional but was able to gather her bearings. On Sunday (April 21) Kashala called her mother and complained she felt weak and had a painful headache before lying down.

Jackson said soon after she called the ambulance because Kashala was unconscious. While at Texas Children's Hospital, it was discovered she had a tumor in the back of her head and had fluid buildup in her brain.

On Wednesday morning (April 24) Kashala died. Pending an autopsy, it's unclear if the young girl had the tumor prior to the fight, or if being kicked in the head caused the tumor, which resulted in her death. Until the autopsy can make the distinction, the case is being investigated as a homicide.

In an emailed stated to The Daily News, the school district stated it's offering students access to grief counselors.

"[The district] is deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our students. We extend our sincere condolences to the student’s family, friends, teachers, and classmates."

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Second Man Convicted In The 1998 Death Of James Byrd Jr To Be Executed

In 1998, Jasper, Texas became the epicenter of the nation when James Byrd Jr's dismembered body was found outside of a predominately black church. The rest of his body was found about a mile and a half away.

Byrd was beaten by three white supremacists men and tied to the back of a pick-up truck and reportedly dragged three miles. All men were found guilty for his brutal murder. One was sentenced to life in prison, one was executed in 20111 and another will be put to death today (April 24).

According to CNN, Jon William King, 44 who's been on death row for 20 years, will die by lethal injection.

King has long maintained coconspirator Shawn Berry was solely responsible for Byrd's death. King has appealed his conviction, alleging ineffectiveness from his defense team. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case last October.

In 2011, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed and Shawn Berry was sentenced to life. While murders are devastating, Byrd's dragging death placed a blinding spotlight on the racial tension in America. The fallout from the case helped to pass the nation's hate crime bill, named after both Byrd and Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen who was viciously beaten to death.

Byrd's family, however, have opposed the death penalty and made it clear they would prefer that King be sentenced to life in prison. Byrd's son Ross has been quoting saying, "You cannot fight murder with murder."

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Charles Eckert

Chanel Lewis Sentenced To Life In Prison For Murder Of Queens Jogger

A New York judge sentenced the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a Queens jogger to life in prison Tuesday, (April 23) despite there being accusations of a coerced confession and jury misconduct.

Cheers broke out inside a courtroom when 22-year-old Chanel Lewis learned his fate. He spoke briefly in court apologizing to the victim's family. “I’m innocent,” Lewis said. “I’m sorry for the family’s loss, but I didn’t do this.”

The victim, Karina Vetrano, 30, went jogging on a park trail in Howard Beach, Queens in August 2016 when prosecutors say she was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered. Her body was discovered in August 2016 by her father.

Lewis' sentencing was initially postponed amid accusations of jury misconduct. However, Judge Michael Aloise decided Monday to move forward with the sentencing. Lewis' first trial resulted in a hung jury and his defense team stated that a desire to swiftly put the case away led to Tuesday's sentencing.

“While there is no denying that Karina Vetrano’s death is tragic and that her family and friends suffered a great loss, every aspect of this case – from the police investigation to jury deliberations – was propelled by a desire to convict at all costs,” The Legal Aid Society, which represents Lewis, said in a statement.

Lewis' defense argued his two-taped confessions were coerced and there wasn't enough DNA evidence linking him to the crime. During the confession, Lewis reportedly said he was upset at his neighbor for playing loud music and when he saw Vetrano he "lost it."

He said he strangled the jogger but didn't sexually assault her. His defense team argued the DNA evidence wasn't gathered properly and didn't match the victim's injuries.

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