Trial to Begin in MN Police Killing of Philando Castile

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Minnesota prosecutors face challenges as they seek a conviction in the case of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony, Mn., police officer accused of recklessly shooting and killing Philando Castile during a traffic stop last summer, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Yanez’ trial will open today, reigniting scrutiny of the seconds that preceded his decision to shoot the 32-year-old black man shortly after pulling him over. The incident’s aftermath was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was with him in the car at the time, as was her then-4-year-old daughter. The footage fueled protests locally and nationally about officers’ use of force against black men. After months of investigation, the 29-year-old Latino officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony-level counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. The decision stunned many, because Yanez was the first Minnesota officer in memory to be charged in such an incident. While thousands of police have fatally shot someone since 2005, only 81 have been charged with murder or manslaughter, said criminologist Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University. Of those charged, most don’t end up being convicted, particularly if the officer takes the stand in his or her own defense. A steep hurdle for prosecutors in officer-involved shootings is convincing jurors to abandon the benefit of the doubt many instinctively give to police, who are allowed to use deadly force when facing a threat of serious harm or death to themselves or someone else. Yanez was on patrol July 6 when he decided to pull Castile over just after 9 p.m. He told his partner he was making the stop because the people in the car resembled suspects in a recent armed robbery. He added, “The driver looks more like one of our suspects just because of the wide-set nose.”

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