July 2016, talk of police brutality and responsibility spiked again with the tragic deaths of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile back to back, July 5th and 6th respectively.
For more information on their unfortunate deaths, read our piece on the two black men who were killed that July. However, since the tragic loss of lives, there has been a recent development in the Philando Castile case.
To briefly summarize, Castile was pulled over by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in St. Anthony, Minnesota. Castile announced he was armed and he had a permit for carrying it. Yanez said he didn’t want to see the weapon. Castile announced he was reaching slowly for his wallet in his back pocket for the identification that Yanez asked for, but was fatally shot when the officer thought he was getting closer to a gun. Meanwhile his girlfriend broadcasted the entire confrontation on Facebook live and her loved one’s death went viral.
Since then, the case gained national attention. Officer Yanez has been free since facing his charges in November. Someone loved by many was dead after a traffic stop and the officer responsible was “on leave” with three upcoming felony charges.
Several times, the defense has tried to get the case thrown out of court. Justice can’t come from a court of law not investigating to the full extent of it’s resources. Philando Castile left behind his girlfriend and his four year old daughter who was in the backseat and witnessed her father bleed out in front of her. Throwing out a case because of arguments of what a citizen “deserved” at a traffic stop is out of the realm of justice.
Police officers make traffic stops several times a day all over the country. Something is wrong when a driver ends up dead. The officer should be subjected to face the law and jury he was sworn and employed to protect.
On top of the requests to dismiss the case, in December, Yanez’s defense team motioned to remove the first judge, Ramsey County District’s Edward Wilson in the case in exchange for another one. Legally, Yanez’s defense has a legal right to exchange judges without a question of why. However, Judge Edward Wilson is black, just like Philando Castile. Yanez’s defense denied that the switch from Judge Edward Wilson to the current Judge William Leary III, who is a white man, had nothing to do with race.
But it’s a logical conclusion that Yanez’s defense team would feel a black judge would be more sympathetic to Castile and possibly not give Yanez a favorable outcome for him. “We only get one removal but we felt [based on our] research and my personal experience… that it was important to remove [Wilson]… for our client to get a fair trial,” said Earl Gray, one of Yanez’s attorneys. Wilson was one of the most seasoned judges available to them, yet they didn’t feel Judge Wilson could be impartial enough to do his job because of the color of his skin. That alone speaks volumes.
However, Judge Leary III also denied the Yanez defense team throwing out the case.
The most recent update was Yanez’s plead of not guilty to three felony charges on Feb. 27 despite the circulating viral video of the traffic stop gone deadly. The trial date has been set for May 30.
Our hearts are still with Philando Castile’s family as well all victims of police violence and hope justice will be served.