The Minnesota police officer who drew widespread protests after he shot and killed Philando Castile has been found not guilty after being charged with second-degree manslaughter.
After 27 hours of deliberation, the jury found St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty for manslaughter, as well as two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, according to the Star Tribune.
While he will no longer be employed as a police officer in St. Anthony, the village announced after the verdict, Yanez was one of the rare officers to be charged for using force on the job — but it's even rarer for cops to be convicted and imprisoned for such actions.
An analysis by FiveThirtyEight's Reuben Fischer-Baum found police are convicted in 33 percent of cases and incarcerated in 12 percent when they go to trial, while members of the general public are convicted 68 percent of the time and incarcerated 48 percent of the time when they go to trial.
Legal standards generally give officers a lot of legal room to use force without fear of punishment. The intention is to give police officers leeway to make split-second decisions to protect themselves and bystanders. And although critics argue that these legal standards give law enforcement a license to kill innocent or unarmed people, police officers say they are essential to their safety.
But there are other reasons police are rarely charged and convicted, as well. Sometimes the investigations fall onto the same police department the officer is from, which creates major conflicts of interest. Other times the only available evidence comes from eyewitnesses, who may not be as trustworthy in the public eye as a police officer.
"There is a tendency to believe an officer over a civilian, in terms of credibility," David Rudovsky, a civil rights lawyer who co-wrote Prosecuting Misconduct: Law and Litigation, told Vox's Amanda Taub. "And when an officer is on trial, reasonable doubt has a lot of bite. A prosecutor needs a very strong case before a jury will say that somebody who we generally trust to protect us has so seriously crossed the line as to be subject to a conviction."
The Scott shooting follows national outrage over several police killings of black men in the past year, including the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, where both grand juries declined to bring charges against the officers involved.
A couple of factors might have helped lead to charges in the Scott killing: an outside agency — the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division — is investigating the shooting, and it was caught on tape, something that has been integral in inspiring public outrage over police use of force incidents since the Rodney King beating more than 20 years ago. But whether the charges will lead to a conviction remains unclear — and history shows it rarely happens.