EXPLAINER: Manslaughter charge in Philando Castile shooting

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Philando Castile

John Choi, the Ramsey County Attorney, said he charged Officer Jeronimo Yanez with second-degree manslaughter because it was the “highest, most provable offense.”

Susan Gaertner, the predecessor to Choi, told Fox 9 she believes the decision “was an appropriate one, albeit a difficult one.”

The Minnesota statute for second-degree manslaughter reads “a person who causes the death of another…by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk…”

Gaertner describes second-degree manslaughter, which carries up to ten years in prison, as criminalizing actions “where a terrible mistake has been made, someone has been very negligent. Someone has died as a result of that. But it’s not a situation where the person pulling the trigger meant it to happen.”

Yanez was not charged with murder. In Minnesota, second-degree murder, which carries up to 40 years in prison, requires the “intent to effect the death” of a person.

“The big difference, in my view, from the outside of course, is that homicides, higher levels of homicides, require intent, intent to kill,” Gaertner said. “There doesn’t seem to be any indication in this situation that officer intended to kill Mr. Castile.”

Not only did Choi announce he would charge Yanez, but he also announced he would bypass a grand jury. Gaertner told Fox 9 she finds grand juries useful, but “community confidence” no longer exists in their ability to make decisions in officer-involved shootings.

As for making tough decisions, like whether to charge in a high-profile case, Gaertner said “at the end of the day, when the decision needs to be made, it’s on you.”