The Curious Case of Philando Castile: A Trial Consultant’s Perspective
And so it begins again. Come with me on a journey, winding through the curious case of Philando Castileviewed through the eyes of a Trial Consultant. How will this case meander its way through the court system? We will be updating and discussing the twists and turns of the case and invite you to join us. You can help us predict how the case will evolve and eventually be resolved. We want to hear your thoughts and feelings about what has transpired and what your take is on new facts as they come to light in the coming weeks, months and years. Ultimately we want to know if this goes to trial, who wins?
Yet another shooting of a black man, this time in Minnesota, Philando Castile, 32, who was pulled over either because he had a ”wide-set nose” and ostensibly resembled a robbery suspect, or because his tail light was out, or some combination of both. Mr. Castile was carrying a properly licensed concealed weapon. The policeman who shot Mr. Castile said that Castile was reaching for that weapon, while Mr. Castile’s fiancé who was sitting in the front passenger seat is adamant that he was simply reaching for his wallet to get his license and registration. What are the game-changing facts that will sway potential juror to formulate an opinion of the case, one way or the other?
What adds to the intrigue of this particular case is that we have an after-the fact viral video which was live streamed on Facebook immediately after the shooting, videotaped by Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds.
What factors will ultimately influence a juror’s decision-making process in determining whether or not this shooting was justified? Visual and auditory evidence is often what captivates the minds of the public and is a powerful tool in shaping juror opinions about a case. What makes the Castile case fascinating is that we have the after-the-fact video. Remember the audiotape in the George Zimmerman case? Who can forget that? People could stand around the water cooler dissecting the audiotape and the map of the parking lot until kingdom come. The interest in the Castile case is similarly made more compelling by the captivationpeople have with the Facebook video.
The difference is that Zimmerman’s audiotape tape was recorded before the shooting. Will it in fact be admissible? If we rely on the ruling that was used in the Casey Anthonycase (the myriad pictures of her partying after her daughter died, and what the majority of the public thought was the most damning piece of evidence) then it should be admissible.
I am a defender of the constitution. A person is innocent until proven guilty. My question to you is what issues/ questions do you have to determine whether or not the prosecution will meet their burden of proof? What evidence will be important to you?
We have several intriguing factors here, including the voice of a distraught man who is heard screaming, “Fuck,” I told him not to reach for it!” Who said that? Does it matter?What exactly does that voice tell us/mean in the video?
There will be forensic experts that will tell us (based on the physical evidence) how far away the officer was standing from Mr. Castile. Does that matter? The angle of the blood/wound will tell us how far back Mr. Castile’s arm was when he received the first bullet? Does that matter?
There was more than one shot, and the first shot was to the arm. Why shoot him two to three more times? What does that tell us if anything? Which bullet killed him, the first, the last a combination?
There is also the perception of the evidence (which is the trial consultant’s job). There was a four year old child in theback seat of the car. Does it matter that a child’s life was potentially put in danger? Was it prudent of the officer to fire 3-4 shots? If the policeman was that close to Mr. Castile, why shoot him multiple times?
Were first responders called? The video basically shows a man dying in front of us for six minutes. Was an ambulance called? After six minutes we see a scene swarming withback up that was called. What does that tell you?
We see an officer holding a gun on a mortally woundedman, who is in no condition to reach for anything. Does that tell us anything about the officer’s ”state of mind?” We have a woman recording what she says happened. The officer, (sounding hysterical to me, but that is just me) disagreeing with her version of events. She says Castile told the officer he had a licensed gun and was reaching for his wallet. This makes sense that he would be reaching for his wallet. It makes sense that most men carry their wallet in their back pocket. What do you believe, that a man would reach for his gun with a four year old child in the car with an officer who already has his hands on his gun? The next time you get stopped, for a traffic violation, look at where the officer’s hands are when asking for your license and registration. Does that influence you? Does the fact that they put the fiancé in handcuffs influence you? If so, how?
What do you think happened? What other clues did you see that influence your opinion? As I always ask in all of the cases I have had the privilege of working on: most importantly, what questions do you have that would help you decide whether the officer is guilty of excessive force?