A detailed look at the jurors in the criminal case against former Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez offers new insight into how the cop who fatally shot Philando Castile managed to get off scot-free.
A piece published by the Minnesota Star Tribune last Friday, the same day a jury found Yanez not guilty on the charge of manslaughter, revealed small, but significant, details about the 12 men and women selected to hear the case against the ex-cop. Even after viewing dashcam footage of the harrowing final moments of Castile’s life before he was riddled with seven bullets from the officer’s gun, jurors moved to acquit Yanez, sending shock waves across the nation.
The acquittal didn’t come as a surprise to many due to the U.S.’s dismal track record of prosecuting officers who shoot and kill Black Americans. The makeup of the jury board, then, provided further evidence that the odds were already stacked against Castile in his family’s quest for justice.
According to the Star Tribune, there were just two Black jurors on the panel. Juror One was described as a young African-American who “who works as a shift manager at Wendy’s and a personal care attendant for his mom.” Though he’s never had any run-ins with the police, the juror expressed some distrust with the justice system, saying “he believed the wealthy and powerful could get off in the legal system because they could hire better attorneys.”
Juror Eight was an 18-year-old Ethiopian woman who had immigrated to the U.S. when she was just 10 years old. The newspaper noted that the defense tried to remove her from the panel due to her unfamiliarity with the American justice system, but “the judge denied the attempt.”
The rest of the jury, however, was comprised of mostly middle-aged white Minnesotans who expressed outward support for law enforcement or an unwavering faithfulness in the justice system. For instance, Juror Two was characterized as an older white woman “who manages a White Bear Lake gas station that has a contract with police.” The judge in the case denied prosecutors’ request to strike her from the board despite the revelation of pro-police posts on her Facebook page, according to the newspaper.
“One of those posts was heavily critical of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during national anthems last year to protest police shootings,” the piece stated. “She said she had forgotten about the posts.”
Juror Three, a middle-aged white male whose wife worked for the same school district as Castile, outwardly admitted that it would be hard for him to be unbiased because he grew up around law enforcement and his nephew is a police officer. He was still cleared to sit on the panel. Juror Five expressed a “high regard for police” and noted that her husband was carjacked at gunpoint 18 years ago.
Juror Four was a gun owner who believed the criminal justice system is “a very fair process,” while Juror Eleven was “a middle-aged white male who owns several shotguns and long rifles to hunt pheasants,” the Star Tribune reported.
The rest of the jury members held similar beliefs — beliefs that were blatantly slanted in favor of Yanez.
While the outcome of the case was cause for outrage, the composition of the jury was seemingly proof that the U.S. justice system is operating in the way it was designed to.