The Minnesota Court of Appeals has denied a change-of-venue request by defense attorneys representing officer Jeronimo Yanez in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.
Yanez’s attorneys filed a writ of mandamus with the Court of Appeals last week asking it to reverse a trial judge’s refusal to grant a change of venue from Ramsey County to Brainerd, Duluth, Hastings or St. Cloud.
“This court will not reverse that decision unless the district court clearly abused its discretion,” Court of Appeals Chief Justice Edward Cleary wrote in a decision issued Thursday. “…Based on our review of the available record, we cannot say that the district court clearly abused its discretion in denying the motion for a change of venue.”
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.
Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III heard arguments on the change of venue issue earlier this month and denied the motion, noting that publicity wasn’t enough grounds to move a case, and that the defense had not proven that local jurors couldn’t be impartial. He also said that the issue could be revisited during jury selection.
Prosecutors made similar arguments in opposition to the original motion and to the defense’s request before the Court of Appeals.
Cleary echoed some of those sentiments in his order.
“The fact that there is widespread publicity about a case does not require a change of venue; the question ‘is whether the publicity is of a type that is prejudicial to the defendant’ and ‘affects the minds of the specific jurors involved,’ ” Cleary wrote, quoting case law. “Moreover, exposure to pretrial publicity does not make a jury presumptively partial.”
Yanez’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday. Yanez has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is scheduled to go to trial on May 30.