The death of Philando Castile and the trial of Jeronimo Yanez

Yanez juror: 'Nobody was OK with it'

An expert witness called by the defense testifies.
An expert witness called by the defense testifies on the ninth day of the trial of Jeronimo Yanez
Nancy Muellner for MPR News

The jury in the trial of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was deadlocked for almost a week before acquitting him on all charges for the shooting death of Philando Castile.

Nearly a week after a jury found Yanez not guilty on second-degree manslaughter and felony weapons charges, one of the jurors has given MPR News the first detailed account of what took place during deliberations.

The juror spoke with MPR News host Tom Weber on the condition that he remain anonymous, because he said he is afraid of retribution. During deliberations, the jury was deadlocked for days before reaching its unanimous verdict to acquit Yanez on all counts.

This juror discussed the group members' mindsets during deliberation, but declined to make public how he voted each day.

"What happened to Philando is not OK to any of us. Nobody felt good about any part of this," the juror said. "We were just asked to do a job and we did it, and I think every one of us is proud of how we acted, but nobody felt good. Nobody was OK with it."

Castile's death and Yanez's trial held the nation's attention since that fatal traffic stop last July. But the goal of jury selection is to find a group of people who don't know much about the case and who have no preconceived opinions on it. Jurors are to consider only what's presented in court.

The juror who's now speaking out didn't know who Philando's mother Valerie Castile was when she stood up and walked out of the courtroom right when the verdict was announced.

Here's one juror's account of how the trial went down and what he's taken away from it all.

On who the jury was

The jury comprised "down the middle, working people," the juror said.

"I don't want to call us average, but that's exactly what we were," he said.

When they realized the gravity of the case, the juror said, those selected to sit on the jury seemed to hope they were alternates. At least one volunteered for the role.

Everyone was respectful to one another regardless of their thoughts on the case, the juror said.

In the middle of the week, he said, the jury was "hopelessly deadlocked." But one of the jurors had a birthday.

"We brought in a crown from Burger King and somebody gave her some M&Ms and somebody brought her some tea they picked up in Scotland and we sang happy birthday to her at the end of the day."

How the jury went from deadlock to unanimous verdict

Jurors were quick to decide Yanez's acquittal on felony weapons charges. The juror said photos of Castile's body showed that Yanez was aiming away from the two passengers, Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter.

Jurors couldn't agree on the manslaughter charge for days, though.

"What we were looking at was some pretty obscure things to a lot of people, like culpable negligence. You think you might know what it means: It's negligent, but maybe pretty bad negligence. Well, it's gross negligence with an element of recklessness ... We had the law in front of us so we could break it down."

"It just came down to us not being able to see what was going on in the car. Some of us were saying that there was some recklessness there, but that didn't stick because we didn't know what escalated the situation: was he really seeing a gun? We felt [Yanez] was an honest guy ... and in the end, we had to go on his word, and that's what it came down to."

On his takeaways of the past week

"Overall, I think if anybody's handling this the right way, it would be Philando's mom. I think if you want to make a change, you can't go after jury or a police officer. I think you need to go after the law. I don't know what that means. I've been thinking about it this week. I don't know how you go about doing that. Do you run for city council?

"I feel like Obama said it best when he was leaving office: Just get involved. I don't know if that means contacting your representative or your congressman or picking up a book and going to law school. I don't know you do it, but I think people should figure out a way to make a difference. They should get involved.

"Go after the law. Don't go after people. There are some situations where people are clearly guilty and then yes. But in situations like this, it's the law. It's the law that people need to go after."

To listen to the interview, click the audio player above.