Cop Who Killed Philando Castile Heads To Trial

"Jurors are very reluctant to second-guess the split-second life-or-death decisions of an on-duty police officer," said an expert.

In the summer of 2016, police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man pulled over while driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter. The story made headlines as video of the shooting captured by Reynolds, in which Castile's death is witnessed by the child, went viral and sparked national outrage and protests. Now, Yanez heads to court to contest charges of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. 

According to ABC News, prosecutors must proove Yanez acted with culpible negligence in order to be found guilty of manslaughter.  

A key element of the trial will likely be the viral video of the situation and another video, extracted from Yanez's squad car. In both videos, the two can be heard arguing over whether or not Castile was reaching for his gun (which he admitted to having) or his ID. The defense also plans to bring up Castile's autopsy, which showed traces of marijuana in his system. The officer's attorneys will likely argue that Castile was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident.

Another controversial detail of the case remains at play as well: according to USA Today, the judge is still deciding whether or not jurors will be allowed to hear references to Castile's firearms permit.

Jury selection in the trial is set to begin today and will likely last at least two days.

Convictions of police remain exceedingly rare, especially considering the increased attention paid to situations in which racial elements play a factor in citizen deaths. 

"Jurors are very reluctant to second-guess the split-second life-or-death decisions of an on-duty police officer involved in a violent street encounter with a citizen," said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Ohio's Bowling Green State University.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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