ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A former Atlanta judge best known for her syndicated TV show is now “stepping beyond the bench” to take on her fledgling law firm’s highest-profile case: representing the family of Philando Castile, a black driver who was shot dead by a police officer in a Twin Cities suburb.
Glenda Hatchett, star of the court show “Judge Hatchett,” vowed Tuesday to sue on behalf of the family of Castile, who was shot last week after being pulled over in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights.
Hatchett, the mother of two African-American sons in their early 30s, said the case hit home and the first thing she did upon meeting Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, was give the woman a hug “as one mother to another.”
“I am now stepping beyond the bench, the other side of the bench,” she said at a news conference near the Minnesota state Capitol and the Cathedral of St. Paul, where the funeral for the 32-year-old school cafeteria worker will be held this week.
St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, shot Philando Castile on July 6 after pulling him over, and Castile’s girlfriend streamed the shooting’s aftermath live on Facebook.
Castile’s girlfriend said he was shot after he told Yanez he had a permit to carry and was armed, and then reached for his ID. Yanez’s attorney has said his client reacted after seeing a gun, and that one of the reasons he pulled Castile over was because he thought he looked like a “possible match” for a robbery suspect.
Hatchett said it’s clear Castile was profiled because of his race.
Records reviewed by The Associated Press show Castile was stopped or ticketed at least 52 times in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
“For him to be stopped as many times as he’s been stopped, it just raises some very serious concerns for me,” Hatchett said.
Hatchett was a corporate attorney for Delta Air Lines for nearly a decade before she was appointed chief judge of the Fulton County Juvenile Court in Atlanta and later gained fame for her show, which ran for eight seasons.
She started The Hatchett Firm in 2014, intending to build a national operation specializing in wrongful deaths and other cases.
The Castile case is by far the most prominent one the firm has landed to this point. Hatchett said she plans to assemble her own team of investigators for it.
Based on what she knows about the shooting so far, “this never should have happened,” she said, adding: “This time must be the last time.”
Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti .