St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez postponed entering pleas during his court appearance Monday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.
During the brief omnibus hearing, during which pleas are typically entered, one of Yanez's three attorneys, Paul Engh, confirmed that Yanez wouldn't enter pleas because of a motion the defense filed last week to dismiss the case.
Yanez, 28, was charged Nov. 16 in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for fatally shooting Castile, 32, during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
The defense and prosecution agreed that the trial judge would hear the pleas and motion at a later date.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Edward Wilson was assigned to the case Monday afternoon. According to Wilson's biography on the state courts website, he was appointed by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1987 and was subsequently elected five times. His current term expires in January 2019.
Wilson, who is black, is a graduate of Macalester College and the University of Minnesota Law School. He has previously worked for the Neighborhood Justice Center and the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis. His professional associations include membership with the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers and stints on the Supreme Court Racial Bias Task Force and the St. Paul Anti-Drug Task Force. Wilson also served as an international judge for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo in 2003.
Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann said he assigned Wilson, who is currently in the family and juvenile division, based on his availability and experience. Guthmann said his race did not play a factor.
"Judge Wilson is our second most senior judge," Guthmann said.
Ramsey County has experienced an unusually busy calendar this year with several murder cases, many of them involving multiple suspects, Guthmann said. Such "special assignments," cases involving murder or manslaughter charges, are spread among judges because they are time-consuming, he said.
"Generally speaking, special assignments are made to as many different judges as we can," Guthmann said. "We want our judges [on these cases] to have a little experience. These are complicated cases."
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Rick Dusterhoft said that once a trial judge is assigned, attorneys could meet as soon as a week afterward to hold a scheduling conference to plan out future court dates.
Castile's mother and a handful of supporters attended the hearing but declined to comment afterward.
St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth sat in a front row reserved for Yanez's family alongside a group of young men.
It was Mangseth's first appearance at a court hearing for Yanez. Mangseth declined to comment afterward and said he would decide "case-by-case" whether he'll attend future hearings.
Monday was Yanez's second court hearing. He is not jailed in the case, and entered through a side door instead of the public entrance.
"They want to minimize congestion," said one of his attorneys, Thomas Kelly.
Kelly and Engh said they plan to file "multiple" additional motions in the case, but "not for a while." Defense attorney Earl Gray was also there.
The defense attorneys filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the case, claiming that Castile's actions and marijuana use contributed to his death. Gray wrote that Castile created "unreasonable risk" and took chances that caused his death.
The prosecution has not filed a response to the motion. Dusterhoft said his office had not received any new motions as of Monday afternoon.