Judge denies motion to move Yanez trial out of Ramsey County

Officer Jeronimo Yanez
Booking photo for St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez
Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

Updated: 4:56 p.m. | Posted: 4:47 p.m.

A Ramsey County judge has denied a request to move the trial of a St. Anthony police officer charged in the shooting death of Philando Castile last July.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez is facing second-degree manslaughter and two felony firearms charges for fatally shooting Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a St. Paul suburb.

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Judge William Leary III also denied defense attorneys' earlier request to drop the charges against the officer.

Yanez's attorneys had argued that the case should be moved from Ramsey County — and relocated to Brainerd, Duluth, St. Cloud or Hastings — because it had attracted significant media and community attention. Castile's death sparked protests and has been covered extensively by Twin Cities and national media outlets.

During a court hearing earlier this week, defense attorney Earl Gray said that jurors in Ramsey County might be afraid to find Yanez not guilty for fear of "homes being burned" after such a verdict.

Prosecutors rejected the argument that jurors could be intimidated by protesters. They've argued that the trial should stay in Ramsey County because social media and online news make it impossible to find a place in the state where the case is completely unknown.

The defense still has the option to file another motion to move the trial at any time before jurors are seated. Only a handful of criminal trials in Minnesota have been moved from their original location in the last five years.

Yanez shot Castile seven times within minutes of pulling him over during a traffic stop on July 6 of last year, according to the criminal complaint. Castile's girlfriend, who was in the car with her 4-year-old daughter, streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live.

The trial has been scheduled to begin May 30.