U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Chicago Tribune subpoenaed in Laquan McDonald murder case

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 29, 2018
Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Tribune

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
— REUTERS/Jim Young
January 29, 2018

Attorneys representing Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke subpoenaed the Chicago Tribune and two other Chicago-area papers on Jan. 29, 2018, ordering the papers to produce copies of all stories about Van Dyke’s fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

Van Dyke has been charged with murder in connection with the fatal 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager. His trial is scheduled to begin later this year.

A copy of the subpoena to the Tribune, obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, orders the paper to bring “any and all articles and/or publications in the electronic archive containing the name ‘Laquan McDonald’ and/or ‘Jason Van Dyke’” to a hearing before Judge Vincent Gaughan on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m.

The articles that Van Dyke’s attorneys are interested in are already publicly available, and it is unclear why they subpoenaed the Tribune for the articles instead of just searching through the Tribune’s archives themselves.

On Feb. 1, both the Tribune and the Sun-Times reported that Van Dyke’s attorney had subpoenaed the Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily Herald.

On Feb. 6, Tribune attorney Karen Flax told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that the Tribune had been served the subpoena and planned to contest it. The Sun-Times declined to comment and the Daily Herald did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Van Dyke’s legal team apparently plans to argue that extensive coverage of the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago-area newspapers has rendered a fair trial for Van Dyke impossible. Van Dyke’s attorneys plan to petition the court to move the trial out of Cook County, Illinois.

Anne Kavanagh, the media spokesperson for Van Dyke’s attorney Daniel Herbert, said that Van Dyke’s defense team subpoenaed the papers to support its motion for a change of venue. Kavanagh declined to comment further, citing a gag order issued by Judge Gaughan.

This are not the first media subpoena in the Van Dyke case. In 2017, Van Dyke's attorneys tried to subpoena Jamie Kalven, an independent journalist who reported extensively on the Laquan McDonald murder and the Chicago police department's alleged attempts to cover it up. Judge Gaughan quashed that subpoena.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].