74 Seconds: The trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez | Minnesota Public Radio News


74 Seconds: The trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez

In July 2016, officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb. The world watched the aftermath, live on Facebook. Yanez was charged in Castile's death. Jurors found him not guilty on all charges June 16, 2017.

This is the archive of MPR News' live coverage of the trial, starting from the beginning. The newsroom also covered the trial and its aftermath on the air, online and in the 74 Seconds podcast.

    Day 1: Decorum and dark suits; questions over permits and pot

    St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, left, and his attorney Tom Kelly leave the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul Tuesday, after jury selection began in the trial against Yanez. (David Joles | Star Tribune via AP)
    By Jon Collins and Riham Feshir | MPR News
    St. Paul -- Jury selection started Tuesday in the trial of St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez, who’s charged in the killing of Philando Castile during a traffic stop last July.
    Fifty possible jurors were given a questionnaire to fill out asking 60 questions ranging from basic demographics to the potential juror’s experience with law enforcement, crime or any of the main parties involved in the case.
    It also asks whether the potential juror is part of “any group that protests against police or government agencies, any group whose members are primarily composed of persons of one race, any group which discriminates against any race, any group which claims superiority over other races.” 
    One potential juror was excluded early in the morning because she’s related to Yanez.
    Most rows in the courtroom on the eighth floor of the Ramsey County courthouse were packed with reporters, media sketch artists and members of the public. Judge William Leary started the hearing right at 9 a.m.
    The front row on the right side of the room was reserved for Castile supporters, but family members did not attend the short hearing. Instead, Castile’s friend John Thompson and Michelle Gross, an activist with Communities United Against Police Brutality, were the only ones in the row.
    Five men in dark suits and one woman sat in the front row on the left side of the courtroom, which was reserved for Yanez's supporters.
    Sitting at a table at the front of the room with attorneys, Yanez wore a gray suit, black-rimmed glasses and a purple tie. He entered before the hearing through a door at the back of the courtroom.
    St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez stands outside the Ramsey County Courthouse while waiting for a ride Tuesday. (David Joles | Star Tribune via AP)
    The only time Yanez spoke was after he was introduced to jurors, when he stood and looked around the room and said, “Good Morning” in a loud voice. As the judge read a summary of the case to the prospective jurors, Yanez didn’t make an expression, but watched the judge intently.
    Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016. He also faces two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm because Castile’s girlfriend and her then 4-year-old daughter were also in the car at the time of the shooting.
    During the hearing, the defense asked that the number of times that they can strike jurors without cause be increased to 15 for the defense and nine for the prosecution. The judge ruled that it should stay at five for the defense and three for prosecutors.
    “If there’s reason to believe that a potential juror is biased, they’ll be removed for cause,” Leary said.
    When potential jurors were out of the room, Yanez’s attorneys asked the judge to cut references in videos to Castile having a legal gun permit.
    Defense attorney Earl Gray argued that Yanez could not have known whether Castile had a legal permit at the time of the shooting and so the fact that he had a permit wasn’t relevant.
    Defense attorney Earl Gray enters the Ramsey County Courthouse Tuesday on the first day of jury selection in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez. (Evan Frost | MPR News)
    Gray also noted that Castile didn’t explicitly tell Yanez he had a permit for a gun. Prosecutor Jeffrey Paulsen countered that Castile didn’t have time to say that before the shooting occurred.
    “All that came up was Castile saying, “I have a firearm,’” said Paulsen, referring to how quickly the shooting happened. “He never got the chance to say he has a permit.”
    Prosecutors have until Wednesday morning to consider a response to that request but the judge said he’s leaning towards excising the mention of Castile’s firearms permit and telling the jury not to worry about whether Castile had a legal permit to carry or not.
    The defense also referenced an interview in May where Diamond Reynolds told investigators that after Castile picked her up on the day of the shooting that she stopped somewhere to buy marijuana.
    The defense attorneys want to know where she bought marijuana and who she bought it from. But prosecutors said they didn’t ask her that during the interview.
    The judge said he wouldn’t order prosecutors to interview Reynolds again about that, but that defense attorneys may question her about it if she testifies, although they’ll need to ask the judge’s permission before bringing it up in court. 
    The defense has repeatedly tried to insert Castile’s alleged marijuana use into the trial. They’ve argued in the past that he was “negligent” in his own death because they say an autopsy showed he had THC in his system at the time of his death. Prosecutors say Castile was compliant and didn’t show any signs of impairment during his interaction with Yanez.

    What’s next?

    Potential jurors will be interviewed starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Attorneys on both sides will whittle the jury down to 15 people, which includes three alternates. The entire trial is expected to take about three weeks.

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