The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand a prison sentence of less than seven years for a white Chicago police officer convicted of killing black teenager Laquan McDonald that many criticized as far too lenient. The high court offered no explanation for its 4-2 decision that denied a rare bid by Illinois' attorney general and a special prosecutor to get the justices to toss a lower court's sentence. One judge issued a strong dissent and one partially dissented, the AP reports. Jason Van Dyke, 40, the first Chicago police officer sentenced for an on-duty shooting in a half century, could go free in as little as three years with credit for good behavior behind bars. McDonald was carrying a small knife in 2014 when Van Dyke exited his squad car and almost immediately opened fire. Police video released in 2015 showed Van Dyke firing 16 bullets into McDonald, many after the 17-year-old had crumpled to the ground.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul stopped short of criticizing the court, though he went out of his way several times to note the four justices in the majority didn't offer a word of explanation for why they ruled as they did. An appeal to the US Supreme Court doesn't appear to be an option, including because the core legal issues have to do exclusively with Illinois law. Raoul acknowledged that his office had run out of options. Asked whether Van Dyke's comparatively light sentence was an illustration of racial disparities in sentencing, Raoul paused before saying: "Suffice to say that I believe the sentence was inconsistent with the law." Jurors in October convicted Van Dyke of one count of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum 20-year prison term, and 16 counts of aggravated battery, which carries up to 30 years on each count. (Van Dyke's lawyer says he was beaten in prison.)