ST. PAUL, Minn. - They maintained from the beginning that the shooting of motorist Philando Castile was justified, and while the defense team for former St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez is not exactly celebrating Friday's not guilty verdicts, they are insisting that justice was done.
"My reaction? The verdict was a correct verdict, the jury worked hard," said Yanez attorney Earl Gray as he walked to his car. "In my opinion this case should have never been charged."
Gray's colleague Paul Engh was not as pointed in his comments, but said he believed the jury's decision was a good one.
"He was very relieved," Engh said, referring to Yanez. "He's glad it's over but it's a tragedy all the way around. We're very satisfied with the verdict, the jury considered this thoroughly, it was thoroughly litigated and fairly defended. No one should have an adverse reaction to this. It was a fair trial all around."
Tom Kelly is another member of the Yanez legal team. He says the attorneys were confident in their case and in Yanez, and felt his conduct was justified. He says that "doesn't take away from the tragedy of the event."
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi was obviously disappointed as he addressed reporters. "We gave it our best shot, we really did," Choi lamented. "Our position throughout this case has been that Philando Castile did nothing that justified the taking of his life."
Choi praised his prosecution team, the investigators that compiled the case that led to charges against Yanez, and even the defense attorneys who represented Yanez. The County Attorney said the case was about Castile, but it was also about the legal process and doing what was right.
"We were fighting for the integrity of this process. I know that this case went worldwide, nationwide, and because of that, and because of the the Facebook live video and the sadness of seeing someone die on video, that got people sad, upset, and angry," Choi reflected. "They were demanding criminal charges be filed immediately.... we fought for that fair, impartial investigation."
Choi took time to mention Yanez, the former St. Anthony Police officer who avoided a conviction, but will wrestle with what happened that fateful night for the rest of his life. "I also don't doubt that Yanez is a decent person, as people testified in court. But he made a horrible mistake from our perspective, and that's what this case was about: That good people can also make mistakes and I know if he could he would take back what he did, and we all wish and he would too, that this never happened."
The County Attorney also made a plea to those in the community who feel incensed and betrayed by the decision to find Yanez not guilty, those who want to make their voices heard. "I understand this verdict bring a lot of hurt, and a lot of pain and deep-seated frustration for a lot of people in this community," said Choi, "and I suspect they want to express their pain. Please, in the honor and memory of Philando Castile, please do so peacefully. Violence only begets violence, and we do not want anyone getting hurt. "
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