Earlier this afternoon, a jury in Minnesota reached a verdict in the trial of St. Anthony Police Officer Jeromino Yanez. Yanez had been charged with second degree manslaughter after he shot Philando Castille seven times in July of 2016. At the time Yanez decided to start shooting, Castille was reaching for his ID that Yanez had asked him for seconds earlier. Presumably, Officer Yanez was afraid that he was instead reaching for a (legally registered) gun that Castille had informed him of. Castille’s girlfriend, who was also in the car along with their four year old daughter, live-streamed, via Facebook Live, his final moments and her own treatment by the police after the shooting. (Video embedded below.) Philando Castille’s “crime” consisted of having a broken taillight.
Sadly, but not at all surprisingly, the verdict that was announced was “not guilty.” The glaring reality that cases like this and those of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who was also issued a license to murder just last month, serve as grim reminders of is that, even on the rare occasions when cops are charged with a crime after unnecessarily killing someone, it’s close to impossible for them to be convicted. Of course, even beyond the basic pre-conditioning of society of the provably false notions that the police are always right and never lie, the deck is always stacked in their favor during these show trials.
A judge controls what evidence can be presented to the jury and what will instead be excluded because it is “inflammatory” or prejudicial. Meanwhile, the onus of presenting that evidence falls to the prosecutor’s office, who work with the police on a daily basis and are dependent on maintaining good relations with them for every other case they pursue. Most trials against police officers are as much a forfeit as they are a loss.
Not only that but the bar is set incredibly low for police officers, even when they kill people that were clearly innocent. All they have to do is wear their Magic Uniform (sometimes they don’t even have to do that) and use those Magic Words, “I feared for my life.” That fear doesn’t have to be justified or even in any way rational. A cop simply has to state that they were afraid and it’s up to the prosecution to somehow prove that this heroic, fearless defender of the public was not in fact afraid for no good reason.
Plus, the media always does their part for the home team helping to glorify the heroic cop and demonizing the victim. Regardless of the circumstances or what you can see with your lying eyes on a video it’s always portrayed as a “tragic mistake” or that victim’s fault. Then they build up sympathy for the killer cops by telling you how much they have already suffered by losing their job and feeling really bad about what they did (oftentimes in spite of evidence to the contrary).
Of course, anyone else charged with a crime generally also ends ups being fired and rarely has the unwavering support of a police union to cushion that blow. yet, nobody says they should just walk free based on that “hardship.” Not to mention the deadly consequences of those officers’ actions inflicted upon those they kill and their families afterwards.
I’ve warned cops and their cult of followers in the past, and in spite of the fact I know there’s pretty much zero chance they will listen, I’ll warn them again: accountability is something you should be seeking for your own sake, as well as for the sake of common decency and there are consequences when you actively work to prevent it.
“No justice, no peace” isn’t always just a catchy little slogan to be chanted.
Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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