The trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile should remain in Ramsey County despite widespread media coverage, prosecutors argued in opposition to defense attorneys’ request for a change of venue.
Yanez’s defense has not proved that their client can’t get a fair trial in Ramsey County, and the jury selection process will allow both sides to weed out potential jurors who are biased, prosecutors wrote in a memo filed Wednesday.
“Although there have been significant writings, reporting and electronic discussion about the facts of this case, including the opinions of readers, that alone does not satisfy the requirements that must be met before a motion to change the venue of this should be granted,” prosecutors 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 in the death of Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6. The last two charges are for endangering Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter, who were in the car at the time.
Defense attorneys Paul Engh, Earl Gray and Thomas Kelly had argued that media coverage was “slanted” against Yanez, and that the case became an “omnipresent spectacle.”
The defense cited comments made by Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi that were critical of the shooting as examples of prejudicial comments that could influence potential jurors.
Yanez’s attorneys requested a move to Brainerd, Duluth, Hastings or St. Cloud.
Prosecutors Clayton Robinson, Richard Dusterhoft and Jeffrey Paulsen argued that the case received widespread local and national media coverage, so moving the trial wouldn’t achieve anything.
If attorneys are unable to find enough unbiased jurors during jury selection, either side can always request a change of venue at that time, they said.
Yanez has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A motion hearing is scheduled for April 4, and a trial is scheduled for May 30.