ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A jury deliberating a manslaughter charge against a Minnesota police officer in the death of a black motorist was struggling to reach agreement on Wednesday, ending its third day without a verdict after a judge’s order to continue trying.
Jury deliberations began Monday in the manslaughter trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot 32-year-old Philando Castile during a July 6 traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb after Castile informed the officer that he was carrying a gun. Castile had a permit for the firearm.
Yanez, attorneys and family members for both Yanez and Castile returned to court Wednesday afternoon, leading to speculation a verdict had been reached. Judge William Leary, without explanation, re-read a portion of the jury instructions to jurors and told them to resume talks.
The material dealt with jurors carefully considering and re-examining their views and their duty to “deliberate with a view toward reaching agreement.”
The hearing took just a couple of minutes. The jury went back to continue deliberations but broke for the day soon after without a verdict. Deliberations will resume Thursday.
On Tuesday, jurors requested another look at dashcam video captured by Yanez’s squad car that shows the shooting. The jury also watched a replay of the video that Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed on Facebook beginning seconds after Castile had been shot.
Defense attorneys contend the 29-year-old Latino officer saw Castile reach for his weapon, that Yanez was scared for his life and was justified in shooting Castile. Prosecutors insist Yanez never saw a gun and had plenty of options short of shooting Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker they say was never a threat. Witness testified that the gun was in the pocket of Castile’s shorts when paramedics pulled him from the vehicle.
The squad-car video shows a wide view of the traffic stop and the shooting, with the camera pointed toward Castile’s car. While it captures what was said between the two men and shows Yanez firing into the vehicle, it does not show what happened inside the car or what Yanez might have seen.
The failure to reach a quick verdict reflects the infrequent convictions of police officers. Data compiled by Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University who tracks fatal police shootings, shows about 35 percent of the 82 officers nationwide charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005 were convicted.
Almost 40 percent resulted in non-convictions, including several recent cases that ended in mistrials or acquittals when an officer testified they feared for their life, Stinson told The Associated Press.
“In these cases, it does seem that jurors are very reluctant to second guess the split-second decision of a police officer in a very violent street encounter,” Stinson said. “Despite the best prosecution efforts, at the end of trial the defense puts the police officer on (the stand) — and that’s all she wrote.”
Castile’s mother, Valerie, declined comment Wednesday. Danny Givens Jr., a pastor who works with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and who has been spending time with the family, describe their mood as “prayerful, hopeful, more importantly just staying in the moment and supporting one another.”
Reynolds’ video of the gruesome aftermath of the shooting was shared widely, and included her statements that Castile hadn’t been reaching for his gun.
The squad-car video shows Yanez approaching Castile’s car and asking for a driver’s license and proof of insurance. Castile appears to give something to Yanez through the driver’s side window. Castile is then heard saying, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.” Before Castile finishes that sentence, Yanez has his hand on his own gun and is pulling it out of the holster. There is shouting, and Yanez screams “Don’t pull it out!” before he fires seven shots into the car.
Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines suggest around four years is more likely. He also faces two lesser counts of endangering Reynolds and her daughter for firing his gun into the car near them.
Conviction on the manslaughter charge requires the jury to find Yanez guilty of “culpable negligence,” which the judge described in jury instructions as gross negligence with an element of recklessness.
The 12-member jury includes two blacks. The rest are white. None is Latino.
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