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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Philando Castile verdict has made a mockery of the criminal justice system

On Friday, Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year, was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

To refresh your memory, Castile was pulled over in July 2016 for a broken taillight while driving with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter.

When the officer instructed Castile to retrieve his license and registration, Castile informed him he was going to get his paperwork from the glove compartment of his car. He also told the officer there was a firearm in the glove compartment but that he was not reaching for it. Despite the fact that Castile was a licensed gun owner and informed the officer about the weapon, Castile had one major factor against him: his skin color.

The officer fired six shots, shooting Castile, who ultimately died in front of his girlfriend and her daughter. Reynolds captured the incident on Facebook Live, showing Castile’s innocence. Considering this, why was Yanez found not guilty?

The case brought up the nationwide debate about police conduct toward black people. Many civil rights activists believe Yanez did indeed shoot Castile out of fear that Castile would shoot him, as his defense stated. However, the reasoning behind his fear was Castile’s skin color. Yanez’s acquittal is both a travesty and a devastating flaw in the American justice system.

Not only were Yanez’s actions racially motivated, but his skills and duties as a police officer were also flawed. It is our belief that when an officer joins the police force, his or her first concern should always be ensuring the safety of their constituents, not themselves. Yanez did not exemplify the selflessness that every officer should. He was selfish. He was careless. He is a murderer.

Yanez’s incompetence seemed to be something all sides of the case could agree on. He was skittish, unprofessional and generally inept at his job. Everyone agreed Yanez made a mistake. However, his inability to execute his duties should not clear him for murder.

This case gave the criminal justice system an opportunity to change the way African-Americans are treated and how their lives are valued. Sadly, the system failed them once again. The evidence against Yanez was both plentiful and undeniable. He not only took the life of an innocent man but endangered the lives of Reynolds and her daughter.

The defense for Yanez was weak. He was the cop who invoked his racial bias and feared for his life. He said he smelled marijuana and believed Castile looked similar to a man wanted for a robbery. Not only were these accusations just assumptions formulated by the ignorant officer, but the last time we checked, possession of marijuana and robbery were not crimes punishable by death.

According to The New York Times, Yanez’s lawyer even said, “We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez. What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.”

We of course recognize driving under the influence is illegal and that Castile should not have done so. Nonetheless, reacting slowly or being high, once again, are not acts punishable by death.

This case was just the most recent in a series of unfair rulings for police officers. In recent years, officers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, have been found not guilty of manslaughter.

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The acquittal of Yanez continues to perpetuate the bias of many trigger-happy police officers and further devalue the lives of African-Americans. The ruling is a mockery of the criminal justice system and an insult to efforts of equality in the U.S.

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