In response to Tripping
Over the weekend I noted that the Philando Castile dash-cam video had not yet been made public. Now it has been (this is obviously disturbing):
As I wrote previously: Body-camera footage would have been far better than a dash-cam video here. We just can’t see what exactly Castile did. It’s clear that Yanez believed he was in danger — listen to the escalation between his calm “Don’t reach for it, then” to his second “Don’t pull it out!” before he fired (all of which go by quite quickly). But was that belief reasonable from the movements Castile was making? Bear in mind that if someone is drawing a weapon despite repeated commands not to, the officer is dead if he doesn’t react quickly.
I have no idea. It’s hard to convict someone with that degree of uncertainty.
Update: There’s a lot of new information coming to light in a document dump that’s shifting my view of this.
For one thing, while Yanez testified confidently at trial that he saw Castile put his hand on the gun, he’d previously said he didn’t know what Castile was touching, not only toward the end of the video above (which was played for the jury), but again in a subsequent interview. City Pages notes:
While jurors indicated they were torn over whether Yanez ever saw Castile’s gun or not, they never got to weigh the now-former officer’s [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] interview because the prosecution failed to bring it up during the presentation of the case. Instead, the prosecution strategically tried to bring the BCA transcript in during its cross-examination of Yanez.
The judge rejected this attempted introduction of new evidence.
He also made a horrifying comment about what was going through his mind when he decided to pull the trigger, inspired by the smell of marijuana:
I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?
As the law professor Ted Sampsell-Jones told the Washington Post, even if he couldn’t be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Yanez “made a terrible mistake, and he shouldn’t be a cop.”