When it was announced that the jury in the trial of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who fatally shot Philando Castile last summer, was into its fifth day of deliberations, I had an inkling that a "not guilty" verdict was imminent.
The jury reached its verdict of not guilty on the manslaughter charge as well as the two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm Friday afternoon after about 30 hours of deliberations.
It was delivered in a Ramsey County District Court courtroom packed with family members and friends of both Yanez and Castile.
The statements given by Castile's family members afterwards were, as you can imagine, utterly heartbreaking.
Allysza Castile, Philando’s 24-year-old sister, said after the verdict was announced that she hadn’t spoken much in the last year because she gets emotional concerning her brother’s death.
“The system really is wrong and they really failed us,” she said, in tears outside the courthouse. “They really failed us once again because my brother was a good man” who never raised his voice.
I also saw television footage of Castile's distraught mother, Valerie. In sharing her grief, Ms. Castile indicated she hopes Yanez "will die tonight." While it's inappropriate to have calls for incitements of violence against anyone, I'm not about to vilify a mother who lost her son 11 months ago in such a senseless manner.
A few other thoughts:
- It may not be a bad idea to come up with some sort of universal policy on what cops require of a citizen who, like Castile, is legally permitted to own a gun and has one on his/her person when pulled over. My understanding is one is not legally obligated to disclose such information. But while doing the honorable thing in offering up full disclosure to Officer Yanez, Castile still wound up dead. Would he still be alive had he indicated initially that he had a permit to carry a firearm before disclosing he was carrying?
- I said it last year in the shooting's aftermath and I'll reiterate. Had it been a white driver who emulated Castile's behavior, I find it difficult to believe he would have been shot to death. I'm not one who typically indulges knee-jerk accusations of racism, but I'm at a loss to come up with words to refute any such speculation involving a racial component in the Castile case.
- There was a story that circulated last year which suggested that Castile matched the description of a suspect who robbed a convenience store not far from Falcon Heights (where Castile was shot). Would that change things? Perhaps if Yanez definitively believed that he was in the midst of someone who potentially committed armed robbery. But it still doesn't explain how the officer could discern if Castile resembled the suspect given he was pulled over in twilight hours.
- Yanez will not be returning to the St. Anthony police force. It's essentially a lock that he will never work in law enforcement again. So this idea he got off "scot-free" is not 100% accurate given his name and picture have been circulated worldwide. That said, he is at least above ground.