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.

    Waiting for a verdict with a box fan and a single plug

    Thursday June 15, 2017
    By Jon Collins | MPR News 
    Eighth floor of the Ramsey County Courthouse, St. Paul --  For the fourth day in a row, seven men and five women have been escorted to a room deep in the Ramsey County Courthouse. Their lunch was carried in by deputies in two big cardboard boxes. A deputy follows them outside if they want to smoke after eating. They wear tags around their necks that say "juror" so no one will talk to them.
    These 12 men and women from Ramsey County have been asked to decide whether to convict a police officer in the shooting death of a driver. It happened during a traffic stop on a hot July night last summer. The officer's name is Jeronimo Yanez. The man shot to death behind the wheel of his white Oldsmobile was Philando Castile. 
    In this towering limestone courthouse on the north bank of the Mississippi River, reporters, family and friends of both men have been waiting for three weeks to hear what was inside the heads of these 12 jurors. 
    But today is Thursday. Just the day before, the jury came out of the room they'd been deliberating in to tell the judge they couldn't agree on a verdict. He re-read them a part of the jury instructions -- the bit about deliberating with a view toward reaching agreement -- and after just two minutes, he sent them back into the room where they'd already spent more than 1,000 minutes hashing over this case. To reach a verdict on the charges, all jurors need to agree. 
    By now, the trial is in its thirteenth day. The crowds of supporters that have been congregating on the eighth floor, hanging around near the doorways of private rooms set aside for the families, are absent for the first time. 
    The families' rooms, bare furniture and office tables, are empty today, too. The drama of the deadlocked jury the day before, after all the expectation that there might have been a verdict, brought only exhaustion. 
    But three dozen reporters are still there, herded to the far side of the hall across the lobby from the courtroom. They're waiting for something to happen, sitting cross-legged on the shiny marble floor or with cramping legs stretched out straight or tucked beneath them. They're perched on hard benches or flimsy chairs or leaning against walls. They're tired-eyed under the vintage orange glow of the Art Deco light fixtures.
    The reporters covering this case all know each other now --  at least, as well as they're going to. The chatter is mostly done. They've talked about families and pets and similar trials in other cities: Cincinnati, Charleston, Milwaukee. They've shouted out headlines as other news on other beats broke in other places.
    At this point in the trial, after weeks of cramming elbow against elbow in packed courtrooms or hard wooden pews or humid hallways, most of the speculation about the Yanez case, and where it's going, has dried up. Now it's simply a waiting game. 
    From the time the building opens to the time they're shepherded out by deputies, the reporters huddle around the single working electrical outlet to charge phones and computers in a game of musical chair. They find amusement where they can: One of them tweets about the types of wood in the courthouse. There's English brown oak in the lobby, teak in the courtroom's walls. The loudest thing is a box fan that's blowing in a darkened, empty room across the hall.
    Every once in a while, a deputy emerges unexpectedly from a door at the back of the hall and the door smacks a reporter standing in front of it. No damage done. But all eyes turn towards any action. The deputies carry an easel through. They carry markers. One carries an energy drink. No one knows what it means. But no one wants to miss a thing. 
    A sign on the wall says pagers and reading material are prohibited in courtrooms. Lots of other things are prohibited, too. And: Don't bring weapons. 
    The elevators ding every time someone gets off. When they're going up, a green light shines above them; when they're heading down from the eighth floor, they're red. 
    Take it way down to the first floor, past the metal detector archways of the security stations, and there's a 36-foot statue inspired by an American Indian ceremony. It's made of onyx. The 60-ton statue turns on its base, but it's so slow you can't even see it move. It takes two and a half hours to make its rotation. 
    Outside the court building, cameramen in shorts and baseball caps lounge in the shade of their satellite trucks. It's almost 80 degrees and sunny. TV anchors record stand-ups for afternoon promos, wary of strangers lingering near their shots. The Mississippi curves behind them. There's traffic on the street, and on the river.
    In the center of the courthouse plaza, more cameras stand ready, pointing at an empty podium and cluster of microphones at the base of a flagpole. It's not that windy. The flag at the top is more wrapped around the pole than flowing in the breeze.
    A young man who protested the shooting last year is eating a sandwich in the shade. He's folding paper airplanes with a little boy and throwing them into the wind. They never fly straight. The little boy chases them down across the plaza. He picks them up. He throws them again. 
    At 1:42 p.m., the camera operators see Castile's family cross the street from the hotel where they're staying. They go through the revolving doors, they wait in line at the security station. They empty their pockets. They walk through the metal detectors. Word filters upstairs, a buzz, to the waiting reporters. 
    The elevator dings and the family gets out on floor eight. The TV judge they hired to represent them is here, too. As they head to the other side of the hall, reporters focus on one question: "Is something happening?" Castile's mother, Valerie, says they just felt like coming by. They go into the room set aside for the family and close the door. But, first, someone unplugs the box fan and takes that, too. 
    The din dies down. The pacing stops. Reporters let bags drop to the floor then themselves sink down to the marble, hunched into the stances most comfortable for tapping on phones. 
    It's 4 p.m. when the family packs into an elevator with a red light above it, headed downstairs, back past security, and across the street for more waiting. The jury is scheduled to meet for just another half-hour before finishing the day.
    On this Thursday in the summer, in the upper floors of that tall limestone building packed with exotic wood, 12 men and women huddle in the jury room. Deputies carry out the remnants of their lunches in cardboard boxes. No one knows what it means. Everyone is waiting to hear. 
    by Meg Martin, MPR News edited by Paul Tosto, MPR News 6/16/2017 3:05:51 AM
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