Judge bans facial expressions from court spectators in Philando Castile shooting trial

Published 6:19 am Saturday, May 6, 2017

By Tad Vezner, St. Paul Pioneer Press

The judge who will preside over the trial of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez has outlined what behavior he will tolerate in his courtroom — including a ban on any facial expressions in reaction to testimony.

An order, signed by Ramsey County District Judge William Leary III this week, makes some common stipulations, such as not allowing anyone to talk to jurors. It also reserves a row of seats each for the families of Yanez and Philando Castile, the motorist he is accused of shooting to death during a traffic stop this past summer.

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But the order also adds that “courtroom attendees shall not wear signs, buttons, articles of clothing or attire, or engage in other forms of expression that refer or call attention to this matter, the Decedent, parties or witnesses.”

Additionally, “courtroom attendees shall not make any facial expression, gesture, utterance, or change of demeanor that conveys any opinion or belief in response to a statement of a party or witness, argument or statement of counsel, or ruling of the court.”

During the trial, the order calls for area outside the courtroom to be cleared of everyone but law enforcement officials. The order also states that “any conduct in or outside the government building that directly interferes with the conduct of a fair and impartial trial in this matter is prohibited.”

The Yanez trial begins May 30 in Ramsey County District Court in downtown St. Paul.

In July of last year, Yanez fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed to Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat of Castile’s car, and whose four-year-old daughter was in the back seat. The incident triggered protests nationwide.

Yanez faces one count of second-degree manslaughter and two felony-counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty.