The trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Philando Castile last year got underway Tuesday.
The St. Anthony Police officer, fired his gun seven times into the car of Philando Castile on July 6, 2016. The aftermath of the shooting was captured on Facebook Live.
Yanez’s trial adjourned for the day after two hours, but not before his attorneys sought to keep jurors from hearing Castile, 32, had a legal permit to carry a weapon.
Yanez’s attorneys submitted the motion to keep this information away from the jurors while the potential jurors were in orientation.
Defense attorneys asked Judge William Leary III to edit out a reference on the Facebook Live video shot by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, that refers to him being in possession of a gun with a legal permit to carry it.
The defense argued that Castile’s status to carry a weapon is not relevant to the charges since Yanez had no knowledge whether Castile had a permit or not when he fired the fatal shots.
Prosecutors seemed to accept the motion as long as jurors would be instructed not to consider whether Castile had a permit. Leary is considering the motion.
The judge denied a second defense motion to allow them to question Reynolds about where she and Castile bought marijuana they allegedly smoked the day of the fatal shooting.
Prosecutors claim Castile did not smoke pot that day, but the Yanez defense team said they can’t verify that if the drug dealer isn’t questioned.
Yanez was patrolling in Falcon Heights, Minn., when he pulled over Castile that night. Castile, an elementary school lunch room worker, had a handgun in his pocket and a permit to carry it.
“I didn’t do it for pity. I didn’t do it for fame. I did it so the world could know these police are not here to protect and serve us,” Reynolds said of the recording the day after the shooting.
“Would this have happened if the driver and passenger were white? I don’t think it would have,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said shortly after the shooting.
Dayton’s comments angered those who said Yanez deserved a trial before judgment is passed.
Investigators said Yanez pulled Castile over for a broken tail light.
In a recording of a police radio conversation that prosecutors now say was Yanez speaking to his partner, Officer Joseph Kauser, Yanez said, “The two occupants just look like people who were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects just ’cause of the wide-set nose.”
Four days earlier, Yanez had responded to an armed robbery at a nearby convenience store.
In November, the Ramsey County, Minn., prosecutor announced he was charging Yanez.
“Philando Castile was not resisting or fleeing. There simply was no objective threat posed to Officer Yanez,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
In announcing he was charging Yanez with manslaughter, Choi read what was said in the moments leading up to the shooting, filling in the gaps of what the Facebook livestream didn’t show.
“Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me. Officer Yanez then said, OK, don’t reach for it, then,” Choi read. “Philando Castile moaned and uttered his final words: I wasn’t reaching for it.”
Prior to the start of the trial, Yanez’s attorneys tried and failed to move the case outside of Ramsey County, claiming all the pre-trial publicity would make it impossible for a jury to treat Yanez fairly.
“County Attorney gives a press release where he totally opines Officer Yanez is guilty. That’s totally unethical and wrong,” said attorney Earl Gray.
Yanez’s attorneys insist there is much more to the case than the Facebook livestream.
In court hearings and filings, Yanez’s attorneys said their client feared for his life because Castile had a gun and didn’t follow police orders.