Monday morning I called into to talk with Justice & Drew about the jury’s verdict on June 16 in the Jeronimo Yanez case. In case you missed it live, click here to listen to our discussion.
For those readers not familiar with the case, Jeronimo Yanez was the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile on July 6, 2016. The shooting was broadcast live on Facebook Live by Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and touched off numerous demonstrations from those concerned about whether Officer Yanez’s actions were justified. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi opted to prosecute Officer Yanez on a primary charge of manslaughter and two other counts. After a trial and several days of jury deliberation, Yanez was acquitted of all charges on June 16.
During the show we discussed the very difficult task faced by the prosecution in making its case against Officer Yanez. The difficulty stems from the standard used in determining whether an officer’s use of force – deadly or otherwise – was excessive as announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).
The Court in Graham held as follows:
• All claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force — deadly or not — in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of a free citizen are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard. Pp. 490 U. S. 392-399.
• The notion that all excessive force claims brought under § 1983 are governed by a single generic standard is rejected. Instead, courts must identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed by the challenged application of force, and then judge the claim by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right. Pp. 490 U. S. 393-394.
• Claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of a free citizen are most properly characterized as invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable seizures,” and must be judged by reference to the Fourth Amendment’s “reasonableness” standard. Pp. 490 U. S. 394-395.
• The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Pp. 490 U. S. 396-397.
We also discussed reports that the U.S. Attorney was looking into Federal charges against Officer Yanez – who was promptly terminated from the St. Anthony Police Department following his acquittal – and the similar difficulties which Federal prosecutors would have given the Graham v.Connor test. Finally, we discussed how the likely resolution of this is a civil suit brought by the Castile family under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and a financial settlement between the family and the City.
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