“Not guilty” – Law and Justice in America

“A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.

“Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.” – StarTribune, June 17, 2017.

The acquittal of the officer Jeronimo Yanez opens again the pandora’s box of racial profiling, justice, law, police training, jury instructions, and race in America.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Minnesota State Senator Tina Liebling, a candidate for governor, sent the following email.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Philando Castile, and to all who mourn him. His killing was a tragedy that should not have happened and the verdict today brings back the pain and horror of that day. While I share the outrage of many over the unnecessary killing and its aftermath, I do not blame the jury or even Officer Yanez. The law itself is to blame, and this is something that can and must be changed.

Minnesota law allows police to use deadly force “only when necessary to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm” and to prevent death or great bodily harm to others. Whether the officer believes the force is “necessary” is examined only in the moment when the officer reacts, and it is hard for a jury to find beyond reasonable doubt that the officer did not have that fear at the moment he fired the gun.

Our law should require officers to avoid creating the situation in the first place-and police agencies should train and reward them for doing so. The officer’s first obligation should be to protect the life and safety of everyone involved in an incident-whether a suspect, victim, or the officer-as it is in many other nations. This may mean waiting for backup before approaching a vehicle, setting up a perimeter and waiting out a suspect, or similar tactics. If we are to reduce the horrible killings of innocent people by police, we must change our laws.

Serving as Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center (1998-2006), I experienced daily the tilting of the scales of justice against African-Americans, American Indians, Latinos, and other people of color. LRC was born of the shared commitment of north Minneapolis African-American civil rights leaders and south Minneapolis American Indian founders of the American Indian Movement to righting the scales of justice. Racial profiling on the streets, racial bias in the courtroom, and finding ways to overcome those disparities of law and justice were and still are Legal Rights Center’s reason d’être.

On days like this, I remember who we are and who we are not. I remember the reality of the law and justice that are not blind, the jury members, all who weep, those who speak and protest in whatever nonviolent ways they can, and hope and pray we will yet find a reason d’être way in America to move beyond “not guilty” to a time that has become harder to imagine.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 17, 2017.



13 thoughts on ““Not guilty” – Law and Justice in America

  1. Those you side with lost and Americans won with this verdict. Get over it. The days of special privileges and protections for the sorts you pander to are over, as are the days when any American will really entertain the fantasy of racial bias in our courts.

    True justice will now more and more be served and true justice isn’t blind to the functional differences of worthiness of the various cultures that demand to live and act separately within OUR borders.


    • Jonolan, “Those you side with lost…”. Who would they be? I’m sorry but it’s a cheap shot. Read it again and offer a comment that speaks to the issue of this post. The post is not a rant. It’s a carefully worded opinion. I hope you’ll offer the same.


      • You directly stated who side with and the fact that you do, especially after reading the contents of the provided link, makes this a “carefully worded rant.”

        Much is the same for many of the other comments here. “Profiling” is so far from wrong as to be necessary for surviving encounters, yet you see it as wrong – if non-Whites don’t benefit from it.

        And justice, if it is to be justice, can’t be blind. Punishments must fit the criminal as well as the crime to be just because different sorts and different groups are affected by them at different levels. So to are specifics of a victim. Hence, what you see as racial bias in the court rooms is actually true justice…if not always, or even often perhaps, good law.


        • Jonolan, We’re on different pages. There are lots of different pages on this issue.
          That’s fine. That’s just life. Everything here on Views from the Edge is from my perspective. It’s my voice alone, born of my experience. Yours is yours, born of your experience. I’d be interested to hear more about yours.


      • Solely within the context of law enforcement – my perspective is that there’s no significant difference between patrolling “the hood” and patrolling Fallujah or Lashkargah. The indigs in all them react the same way to peacekeepers and I can’t see why the peacekeeping forces in “the hood” should be forced to react any differently than we did in those foreign shitholes.


        • Jonolan, so much for my last response inviting you to share a bit about your experience and how it shapes your views of life. I know nothing more about who your are a person than I do your replies and the photo from your blog.

          Ah, yes. The “shitholes” – like the foreign “indigs” of Iraq and Afghanistan who didn’t welcome American peacemaking, and the “indigs” closer to home in north Minneapolis who feel like Iraqis than Americans.

          So much for dialogue, Jonolan. BTW, the photo is a bit scary, but…. some folks don’t scare easily.

          I wish you good health and joy. Over and out.


      • I guess this is a case of be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

        All I am is a ex-soldier and later ex-merc. What I’ve done since then doesn’t matter because my life was already shaped – from birth I guess since I’m the child of soldiers (mom and dad) and so were they.

        BTW – Indigs wasn’t meant as a derogatory term by me. Just a short cut for indigenous people or personnel.

        But, over and out. Find a snug berth when your watch ends.


        • Now maybe we’re getting somewhere. You’re an ex-soldier and ex-merc, the son and grandchild of soldiers. I respect that. My father, a heroic figure I think of today on Father’s Day, served on Saipan in WWII. He was a chaplain who buried his Army Air Force friends.

          As a pastor, I advocated for and worked with vets who were personna non grata during the Vietnam War, counseled a PTSD vet who hadn’t slept for three weeks from flashbacks to My Lai, and, much later, worked with American Indian military veterans who came home to live under the freeways in Minneapolis, going to sleep after emptying a bottle. It wasn’t true of them, and it’s not true of you, Jonolan, that there was nothing to their lives other than what had already shaped them.

          A long-lost second cousin and I recently reconnected after 60 years. We’d only met once. What I’ve discovered is 1) how much of me is already determined by my DNA, and 2) how responsible I am for what I do with that genetic predestination. We are all indigenous to some place or other, some DNA or other, and, when we meet folks whose DNA, history, and place are different, it’s a challenge and an opportunity to learn more about one’s self and the other person.

          Thanks for the reply. All the best.


  2. Between a rock and a hard place, indeed. When I drive to my piano lesson I pass many houses with signs proclaiming, in one form of words or another: We support our police; they put their lives on the line for us every day. The subtext, in many cases, is likely to be racial profiling, but regardless of the subtext, the signs do state a simple fact: police have a potentially very dangerous job. But again, somehow we must overcome racial profiling. Both these things are crystal clear. Some have thought that foot patrols might help, as letting police and residents get acquainted. In any case, prayer is needed.


  3. Pingback: “Not guilty” – Law and Justice in America | From Sandy Knob

  4. I, too, received Minnesota State Senator Tina Liebling’s email, and responded to it briefly… The way our current laws are written have a distinct bias. but not recognizing the danger the policeman’s knee jerk reaction and the panic in his voice that was evident on the original recordings still stay with me as when I first followed this. The idea that there was not even a slap on the hand for the danger he posed to the passengers reinforces the idea that some people’s lives are more important than others….. Except he will never again be a police officer. – that was determined shortly after the first review and long before this trial.


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