Defense attorneys for the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile attempted to get the manslaughter charges against him dropped, arguing that Castile was culpable in his own death, but a judge disagreed and denied the dismissal Wednesday, ruling that the trial against the officer will move forward.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III filed his decision Wednesday afternoon after hearing oral arguments on the issue that morning. Leary noted that using a victim’s behavior to justify a defendant’s actions is not foolproof, and he found that there was enough probable cause to move forward with the case against St. Anthony, Minn., Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Yanez’s argument that Castile’s behavior clears him of his actions “fails because a victim’s unreasonable conduct is never an absolute defense to a criminal charge,” Leary wrote.
Leary added that the evidence in the case as interpreted by the prosecution could be enough for a jury to find Yanez guilty.
Leary also made it clear that his order is not a judgment on the merits of either the defense’s or the prosecution’s case.
Yanez’s attorneys have said that the charges against him should be dropped because Castile put himself at risk by smoking weed and disobeying police orders, but prosecutors have said that Yanez acted unreasonably when he shot at Castile seven times.
Earl Gray, one of three attorneys for Yanez, said Wednesday afternoon that Yanez would enter a plea of not guilty at a Feb. 27 omnibus hearing.
“It’s difficult to get a judge to dismiss on probable cause, but this is just the first round,” Gray said, “and we’re quite confident that once this case goes to trial, Officer Yanez will be totally exonerated.”
Gray said many of the issues the defense raised in its dismissal motion will be brought up again at trial.
“I can assure you that we’re going to have experts at trial that we’ve already worked with—that have already looked at this—and they will testify without hesitation that what Officer Yanez did was clearly reasonable and justified and authorized use of force on his part,” Gray said.
Yanez, 28, was charged Nov. 16 with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for the July 6 killing of Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., and the endangering of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter, who were in the car at the time.
Diamond Reynolds recorded the aftermath of the shooting in a viral Facebook Live video in which she says Castile had been complying with Yanez’s commands, and Yanez can be seen crying after shooting Castile.
Read more at the Star Tribune.