The trial of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile last summer is set to begin later this month, and on Tuesday a judge heard motions from both sides, offering a glimpse into the strategies of both and setting the stage for what will likely be a contentious court battle.
Ramsey County, Minn., District Court Judge William H. Leary III denied key defense requests, including one that the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, be allowed to re-enact the fatal shooting in the presence of Castile’s car while the jury watched, the Star Tribune reports.
Earl Gray, one of three attorneys representing Yanez, told the Star Tribune that although not all of their motions were granted, the defense still has a strong case.
“We got rulings that will help us defend the case,” Gray said. “I’m not going to comment on the judge’s rulings. We have enough there to easily win this case.”
From the Star Tribune:
Several defense and prosecution motions were addressed at the pretrial hearing—the final one scheduled before the trial begins May 30. The judge reviewed requests by the defense to admit evidence of Castile’s alleged past marijuana use, his arrest and driving records and an interview Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, gave to police in an unrelated assault case.
Yanez, 29, was charged in November with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm after killing Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights [Minn.] on July 6. Reynolds and her daughter, then 4, were also in the car.
Defense attorney Paul Engh “made an impassioned plea” that the judge allow jurors to see Castile’s car in person as Yanez re-enacted the traffic stop, according to the Star Tribune.
“On a visceral level, the actual car and the seat and the blood … is visually arresting,” Engh said, adding that seeing it in person would be “moving” and “far superior” to seeing it in photographs, the normal way that jurors see crime scenes during a trial.
“I’m a little concerned that you used the words ‘visceral’ and ‘moving,’ because that plays to people’s emotions rather than the facts,” Leary said.
The defense is also working to discredit Reynolds by requesting audio and video of an interview she gave to St. Paul police in March regarding an incident in which she allegedly attacked a woman with a hammer. Defense attorneys told the judge that they won’t bring up the charges against her, but they want to show that she lied to police about her whereabouts during the assault.
When asked by the judge how this was relevant to the case against Yanez, Gray said that the defense planned to make the inference that if Reynolds lied about the assault, she could also be lying about Castile’s shooting.
Leary also ruled that Castile’s past marijuana use cannot be presented as evidence, but he said that he could be asked to reconsider if testimony touches on that subject matter.
Evidence of Castile’s marijuana use the day of the shooting will be permitted; the defense has previously said that its use contributed to Castile’s death.
The Minnesota Supreme Court also weighed in on the case Tuesday, denying a defense request to move the trial to another county, a request that was previously rejected by Leary and the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Read more at the Star Tribune.