Judge: Jurors in Castile shooting case can’t view car; no re-enactment

Published 7:36 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

By Riham Feshir

MPR.org/90.1 FM

ST. PAUL — St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez will not be allowed to re-enact what happened the night he shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop after a Ramsey County judge Tuesday denied a defense request for jurors to see Castile’s car in person.

The decision was among several made during a pre-trial hearing. Judge William Leary III also ruled against bringing up in opening statements anything regarding the character of Castile or Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car that night and streamed the bloody aftermath on Facebook Live. The defense can raise those issues during trial with prior approval from the court.

Leary also turned aside the defense’s request to increase the number of jurors they can strike from the case without cause from five to 30.

Yanez faces one second-degree manslaughter charge and two felony firearms charges for shooting Castile last July.

His attorneys had sought a re-enactment so the jury could see Yanez’s perspective when he shot Castile.

The defense also asked to present as evidence Castile’s permit to carry application, driving record and information about his marijuana use, arguing that Castile wouldn’t have been granted a permit to carry a gun had he “told the truth” about using marijuana.

Prosecutors have pushed back against allowing any evidence that could be used to try to attack Castile’s character. And the judge on Tuesday denied a request for the defense to bring up Castile’s marijuana use beyond the day of the shooting.

“Obviously, we want this case to be tried based on what the officer knew at the time, not about what has been dug up from years past,” prosecutor Jeffrey Paulsen told the court.

The judge granted a few motions, including the ability for the defense to present testimony regarding Yanez’s character and his reputation in the community.

Defense Attorney Earl Gray declined to comment on the judge’s rulings, but said after the hearing “we have enough there to easily win this case.”

Yanez’s trial is set for May 30.

Separately, the Minnesota Supreme Court late Tuesday afternoon declined to hear a Yanez request to move the trial out of Ramsey County and elsewhere in Minnesota. Yanez’s attorneys had sought the move arguing it would be difficult to find unbiased jurors in Ramsey County due to statements by public officials and media attention to the case.

Yanez shot Castile seven times. Castile was declared dead at Hennepin County Medical Center a half-hour later.

When Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced charges in November, he said “no reasonable officer, knowing, seeing and hearing what officer Yanez did at the time, would have used deadly force.”