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Jury Acquits Minnesota Officer In Shooting Death Of Philando Castile


Not guilty is the verdict against the Minnesota police officer who killed a black man in his car nearly a year ago, sparking national protests. Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot multiple times at Philando Castile during a traffic stop. As Castile sat bleeding to death, his girlfriend began filming. She streamed the video to Facebook Live, and millions of people saw it.

Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio has been in the courtroom throughout this trial. He joins us now. And Tim Nelson, I know that this verdict was just announced a short time ago. Yanez faced a - faced manslaughter charges and was acquitted of those. But how are people reacting?

TIM NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it started as soon as the verdicts - the first verdict. There were three counts here. The first verdict was a manslaughter count. It started immediately as the verdict was read. On Castile's family's side of the courtroom, there were gasps and shock and, frankly, tears. People started crying almost immediately. Castile's mother actually got up and left the courtroom against the judge's orders, said some profanity to deputies as they tried to stop her. There were some tears on the behalf of the Yanez family as well, relief obviously that this case has come to a conclusion. And he's going to remain a free man.

CORNISH: Now, you've followed this trial the entire time. Are there any particular moments that might help us understand what motivated the jury to reach this verdict?

NELSON: Well, there were three things. The first was the squad car video from the officer's dash cam. You know, it - we knew it existed, but we finally got to see it in court. And it really underscored the suddenness of how this all happened and the heightened emotion and tension of this encounter on July 6.

The defense also returned again and again to the THC found in Castile's system after his death. You know, they contended that this may have impaired his ability to respond correctly to the officer that pulled him over and possibly to disclose the fact that he had a gun on him in a way that could have added to the risk of how this was happening. You know, he told the officer he had a gun but didn't tell him that he had a permit to carry it, which he did.

And lastly, there was Officer Yanez on the stand last Friday. You know, he was near tears as he recounted this incident and described his fear and - as he watched Castile move around in his driver's seat. The defense made a lot of that testimony, making reference to a Supreme Court decision indirectly, Graham v. Connor, that holds police, you know, have to be judged as acting in an uncertain moment with shifting circumstances, and they can't be judged by 20/20 hindsight by someone who might not be facing that kind of danger.

CORNISH: This is what the jury saw. For the rest of the public, the video of Castile's death was really very powerful, and it led to several days of protests. Do you get the sense that there will be more protests now?

NELSON: It's hard to say. There is one scheduled for tonight here at the state capitol in Saint Paul. And there was a lot of anger leaving the courtroom. One of Philando Castile's coworkers, a school worker, was in tears with his head down as he walked out of the court. You know, the reaction on social media has been quite angry as word got out about this. And again, Philando Castile's family was visibly angry, visibly upset as they left the courtroom here just a few minutes ago.

CORNISH: As we said, the verdict was not guilty in this criminal trial. But is this the end of the road for this case? Is there any more legal work to be done?

NELSON: Well, criminally, no. He has been acquitted. This is his one trial. Double jeopardy will keep him from facing criminal charges again. That said, Atlanta attorney Glenda Hatchett has been hired by Philando Castile's family. She within days of this incident was threatening a federal lawsuit. She's been in the courtroom watching this happen the entire time. She was out talking to the media a few minutes ago. So I expect we'll be back in a courtroom about this case at some point in the near future.

CORNISH: Reporter Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio, thank you for the update.

NELSON: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAHMUNDI'S "#068 - INSTRUMENTAL DEMO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Nelson

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