Officer charged in Castile shooting pursues venue change

Police Shooting Minnesota
St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez outside the City Council chambers on Jan. 8, 2013.
Christian Dobratz via AP 2013

Updated 11:23 a.m. | Posted 8:18 a.m.

Attorneys for a police officer charged in the death of Philando Castile last summer are appealing the judge's decision not to move the trial out of Ramsey County.

St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6. Yanez is charged in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm.

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Defense attorneys first asked the Ramsey County District Court to move the case in March, arguing that it had become an "omnipresent spectacle," with protests, statements by public officials and a high level of media coverage.

Prosecutors countered that media organizations cited by the defense had wide reach into all parts of the state, and that social media and online news made it possible for people everywhere to access news accounts of the case.

That first request for a change in venue was denied by Ramsey County District Judge William Leary III earlier this month. He said in that decision that media coverage alone wasn't sufficient reason to move a trial, but that defense attorneys could make the request again if they weren't able to find impartial jurors.

In appealing the Ramsey County judge's decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Yanez's attorneys renewed many of their earlier arguments, including the recommendation that the case be moved elsewhere in Minnesota to Duluth, Hastings, St. Cloud or Brainerd.

The defense has also hired private investigator Craig Holm to interview dozens of residents of Brainerd and Duluth to gauge how familiar people in those cities are with the case.

In the report issued by Holm, he said that 10 percent of the people he interviewed in Brainerd knew of Castile, although 90 percent could recall something about the case when the investigator briefly discussed it. In Duluth, Holm said 20 percent of those interviewed knew of Castile.

Yanez's trial is currently scheduled to begin May 30 in St. Paul, with jury questioning to start the next day.