Cosby, Castile, Carter: Three trials that gripped the nation
A mistrial, an acquittal, a conviction. Three major trials that gripped the nation came to markedly different conclusions last week.
While completely unrelated, the trials were unusual in their own way. There was the Bill Cosby courtroom drama, the trial of a police officer accused of shooting a motorist in an encounter caught on Facebook Live, and the trial of a young woman accused of using text messages to encourage her boyfriend to take his life.
All three ended as the week came to a close, each with its own result and its own reaction.
In the Cosby case, it might not really be the end, as prosecutors vowed to retry the case when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.
In the trial of Minnesota Officer Jeronimo Yanez for the death of motorist Philando Castile, a jury’s not-guilty verdict for the officer on Friday was enough to send waves of protesters into the streets of St. Paul.
And in a case mostly overshadowed by the other two trials, a judge on Friday convicted a 20-year-old woman of involuntary manslaughter for actions she did — and did not — take preceding her boyfriend’s suicide.
Three pictures of American justice. Here are snapshots:
Bill Cosby trial — Round 1?
America’s once-favorite TV father is spending Father’s Day without wondering what a jury will decide for him.
Twelve jurors spent more than 53 hours deliberating testimony and evidence presented in court, but remained deadlocked, unable to reach verdicts on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
The judge declared a mistrial, and prosecutors quickly said they would press their case against Cosby in a new trial with a new jury.
After the decision Saturday, the only words from the Cosby family were from his wife, Camille, who blasted the prosecutors, the judge and the media in a statement read by a representative.
Her famous husband, who has steadfastly said he is not guilty, left the talking to others.
The woman who accused Cosby did the same.
District Attorney Kevin Steele praised Andrea Constand, who accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her, for her courage — an attribute that also gave other Cosby accusers reason for optimism.
“I personally cannot thank Andrea Constand enough,” said Heidi Thomas, who has said Cosby assaulted her in 1984.
Some of the angst over the decision was reflected through the social media accounts of some Hollywood celebs.
“Girls” star Lena Dunham was outspoken, as she often is on issues involving women. She composed several tweets, including one that said: “Survivors of sexual assault have to watch every day as the legal system calls them liars and denies their truth. It is an unimaginable grind.”
Acquittal of officer in Philando Castile death
Minutes after a court let the man that shot her son go, Valerie Castile’s heartbreak flowed out Friday as she talked to reporters about her feeling that she was denied justice.
“The system continues to fail black people,” she shouted. “My son loved this city and this city killed my son and the murderer gets away! Are you kidding me right now?”
Jurors deliberated for 27 hours and heard two weeks of testimony about the July 6, 2016, traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Castile, who died as his girlfriend recorded a gut-wrenching video that was posted to Facebook Live.
The officer told the court he didn’t want to shoot Castile, who had told police during the traffic stop that he legally had a gun in the car, but did so because “I thought I was going to die.”
Besides being acquitted of second-degree manslaughter, Yanez was found not guilty of firearms charges.
Castile’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it,” insisting he wasn’t trying to get his handgun.
The jury’s decision prompted thousands of people in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to protest Friday night. Eighteen were arrested after a demonstration that started at the state capitol turned into a march that eventually moved onto an interstate.
The protesters said the verdict showed a system stacked in favor of law enforcement and against black people.
“How did a jury not see what the rest of the world did? And why does, and how could, this continue to happen? Will there ever be accountability?” CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson asked in a commentary.
One juror spoke to the media. Dennis Ploussard said jurors didn’t take their duties lightly and carefully considered the evidence. For much of the 27 hours of deliberation, all but two were in favor of acquittal.
According to CNN affiliate WCCO, Ploussard said that when jurors came to understand the definition of “culpable negligence,” they decided Yanez had acted as any other officer would.
Texting suicide case
This was the trial of a woman who as a teen texted her boyfriend as he considered suicide.
Conrad Roy III was 18 when he took his life in 2014 by sitting in a parked, running pickup and inhaling carbon monoxide.
Investigators found text message conversations between Roy and his girlfriend, Michelle Carter.
Prosecutors used those to help convince a judge — Carter waived her right to a jury trial — that Carter was guilty of involuntary manslaughter. There were other reasons she was guilty, Judge Lawrence Moniz said Friday during a 15-minute explanation of his rationale for conviction.
“She admits in … texts that she did nothing: She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family” after hearing his last breaths during a phone call, Moniz said. “And, finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: Get out of the truck.”
The decision in this case was unusual, but one legal scholar told CNN it is not likely to set a legal precedent
“Especially since it still needs to survive appeal,” Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed said.
But it could “embolden other prosecutors to be more aggressive in their charges” since it has “such a symbolic value,” he said.
There’s also the issue of sentencing. Carter was 17 when Roy died and she could face a sentence that takes into account she was a juvenile at the time. If sentenced as an adult, she could get 20 years in prison, though many legal experts think that isn’t going to happen.
And if the verdict is overturned on appeal, Massachusetts lawmakers might then consider writing a bill that makes actions like Carter’s specifically illegal.