National Black Law Students Association “Highly Concerned” Following Acquittal of Ofc. Jeronimo Yanez in Minnesota

 

Below is a statement from the NBLSA National Attorney General Jeremy McLymont:

Within the last few months, the Black community’s faith in the criminal justice system has been crushed by repeated rounds of injustice.

On April 29, 2017, then Officer, Roy Oliver, shot fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards in the head with an AR-15 rifle, killing him. The Balch Springs Police Chief fired Oliver after reviewing dash cam footage and realizing that Oliver lied about the incident. Oliver was also charged with murder. Although the officer was charged, the true injustice lies within the culture that prompts officers to shoot unarmed Black bodies and misrepresent the truth surrounding these shootings with impunity. Additionally, recent occurrences remind us that the conviction rate for these police involved shootings has not favored justice for Black lives. We must, therefore, remain vigilant.

Just three days later, on May 2, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice refrained from bringing federal charges against Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, the two officers involved in the murder of Alton Sterling. On the same day, former officer Michael Slager, reversing his prior tale of self-defense, admitted in open court and plead guilty to federal civil rights violations, regarding what our community painfully watched on video – an officer willfully shooting a fleeing, unarmed Walter Scott. The words of the plea agreement vocalize our continuing anguish. This sworn officer of the law “acted voluntarily and intentionally and with specific intent to do something that the law forbids.”

Fifteen days later, Betty Shelby, the officer who murdered an unarmed and compliant Terrance Crutcher, was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury of her peers.

Mr. Philando Castile

Most recently, on June 16, 2017, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter stemming from the killing of Philando Castile. A law-abiding, weapon permit-carrying, compliant citizen who bled out in full view of his girlfriend and their four-year-old daughter, following seven shots from an officer who “feared for his life.” It was a senseless homicide, witnessed globally on Facebook Live, yet his Black life received no justice. This traumatic cycle of abuse and injustice is all too familiar within our community.

For nearly fifty years, NBLSA’s legacy has been rooted in the fight against injustice and it will continue down the path of racial justice. As Assata Shakur said, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” In a country where it seems that Black lives do not matter, we must continue to affirm to ourselves and to the world that Black lives do, in fact, matter!

The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) calls on local, state and federal elected officials to work with police departments in drafting policies that will make our communities safer. We challenge these groups to raise the minimum requirements for police officer applications to include higher levels of education and experience. We call on police departments to refrain from sending their officers into communities that they fear; this idea is counterproductive to a safe and successful working environment. We also call for the federal prosecution of Officer Yanez for civil rights violations.

Lastly, NBLSA challenges its own members to get involved. Reach out to members on the National Advocacy Team and share your progressive ideas. The expectations of Black lawyers as social engineers remain high. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

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About the National Black Law Student Association
National Black Law Students Association (“NBLSA”), is a national organization formed to articulate and promote the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community. As one of the largest student-run organizations of its kind in the United States for Black law students, NBLSA has thousands of members across America and is also comprised of more than 200 chapters and affiliates from six countries, including the Bahamas, Nigeria, and South Africa.

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