MN Shooting Issue: Has Justice System Improved for Blacks?

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One year ago today, the world was introduced to a dying Philando Castile, an officer’s gun trained on him, as his girlfriend livestreamed the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook. In the ensuing year, he became known as not just the latest black man shot and killed by police, but a beloved nutrition services supervisor who doted on schoolchildren, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Protesters took to the streets before and after Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony, Mn., police officer who shot Castile, was charged and later found not guilty.

To Castile’s friend, John Thompson, Yanez’s acquittal shattered hopes that Minnesota would buck the national trend in police prosecutions. The anniversary delivered little if any satisfaction that the criminal justice system had improved for black citizens, particularly black men. “It’s going to be a long time for me to pull myself together,” said Thompson. A jury deliberated for a week before acquitting Yanez. Two jurors later said their debate hinged on the definition of reckless negligence and on whether Yanez feared for his life. “I worry that this case will corrode people’s faith in the criminal justice system,” said Chiraag Bains of Harvard’s Criminal Justice Policy Program. “You can do everything right and still get shot.” That fear is shared by police, said Andy Skoogman of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. “I think law enforcement in general is looking for ways to do a better job of connecting with communities of color,” he said.

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