The Minnesota Supreme Court should not review defense attorneys' request to move officer Jeronimo Yanez's trial in the killing of Philando Castile out of the metro, the Ramsey County attorney's office argued Monday.
The county attorney criticized the defense's third attempt to move Yanez's trial to either Brainerd, Duluth, Hastings or St. Cloud. Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ragatz said that the defense could make the motion again if their fears of biased jurors proved true once selection began.
"[Yanez's lawyers are] asking this Court to act as an error-correcting court," Ragatz wrote "… Petitioner has never answered this simple question: what's the harm in waiting?"
The defense has also not shown that an unbiased jury can't be impaneled in Ramsey County, the prosecution argued.
Defense attorneys Paul Engh, Earl Gray and Thomas Kelly originally filed a change of venue motion with the district court, which Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III denied in early April. The judge wrote that there was no proof that Ramsey County jurors couldn't be impartial despite the publicity the case has received, and noted that the defense could revisit the issue during jury selection.
The defense then turned to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but that court also denied the request.
"The orders issued by Judge Leary and the court of appeals are thorough and well-reasoned; they need not be rehashed here," Ragatz wrote.
Yanez, 29, a St. Anthony police officer, was charged Nov. 16 with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for killing Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her then-4-year-old daughter were also in the car.
Yanez has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and is scheduled to go to trial May 30.
His attorneys argued in their petition last week that a move should be granted by the high court because of critical statements Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Gov. Mark Dayton have made about the shooting.
The defense incorrectly applied case law in their argument, Ragatz wrote, because the case they referred to involved statements made by police who investigated the crime, whereas the Yanez situation did not involve commentators who were "police insiders." (The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the shooting and turned over evidence to Choi's office for charging consideration.)