A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.And the predictable aftermath:
Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.”
“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said at a news conference shortly after the verdict was read in court about 2:45 p.m. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away.”
Hours later, at the tail end of a protest march through the streets of St. Paul, hundreds of people headed out on Interstate 94 at Dale, shutting down the freeway. Over the course of about an hour, the crowd thinned out and was moved to a ramp near Marion before State Patrol officers moved in after 12:30 a.m. Saturday and began making 18 arrests. Among those arrested were reporters Susan Du of City Pages and David Clarey of the Minnesota Daily, who were covering the protest.Where to begin? Well, a few preliminary thoughts:
- The prosecution made one huge tactical error, I thought. They didn’t present the BCA testimony that Yanez gave the day after the shooting as part of their case, because they were hoping to use it against Yanez during cross-examination when Yanez testified in his own behalf, but the judge didn’t allow it. I understand the strategy; the idea was to impugn Yanez’s testimony on the stand, but you can’t withhold evidence during one part of the trial and expect to pull it out of your hip pocket later on. Had the judge allowed the testimony at that point, it would have given Yanez’s attorneys a great shot at overturning a guilty verdict on appeal. As a matter of law, the judge’s decision was correct. Whether it served the cause of justice is another matter entirely.
- More generally, we've seen this before -- cops are given an enormous benefit of the doubt in most of their interactions. In nearly every case we've seen over the last five years, the cop has prevailed at trial. It's a high bar to clear.
- Blocking the highways doesn't help anyone's cause. I expect we'll be seeing a number of different highways blocked in the coming days here in the Twin Cities. I hope nothing happens that will lead to additional tragedy.
- I don't mean to minimize the grief of Castile's mother, but there was no way for Yanez to know how much her son loved Minnesota. What Yanez knew, or thought he knew at the time, was that there was an armed robbery suspect on the loose who bore at least a passing resemblance to Castile. We still don't know who that individual is, because apparently he hasn't been brought to justice yet. Based on every report we've seen, it wasn't Castile. Yanez didn't know that until much later.
- For its part, St. Anthony Village has ashcanned Yanez. I'm not surprised that happened. It's possible that the protests could come to St. Anthony in the coming days. As regular readers of this feature know, I live about a mile and a half from St. Anthony City Hall, so the potential unrest that we can expect could have a direct impact on us. We'll just have to see what happens.