Yanez trial: Use of force experts testify, prosecution to rest

- A defense attorney representing St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez told Fox 9 the prosecution is resting its case after three days of statements and testimony. A court representative said prosecutors likely have more witnesses to call Thursday before the defense begins to present its case.

DAY 3: Use of force experts take the stand

Use of force experts for the prosecution and defense took the stand Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez for the shooting death of Philando Castile last summer.

The sides agreed that their use of force experts can make conclusions about the reasonableness of the shooting, but cannot offer opinions on the innocence or guilt of Yanez.

Lindsey Garfield, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator, was asked about Castile’s gun, the bullet trajectory and the marijuana found in the car. Yanez said he smelled marijuana when making the traffic stop, but Garfield said she didn't smell weed in the car – that she only smelled marijuana once the package in the car was opened.

Postmortem toxicology reports show Castile's blood  THC levels to be high, but the Ramsey County Medical Examiner says these reports are unreliable in determining when a person last smoked marijuana. 

Garfield also told the court there would be no way to tell if Castile’s gun was loaded at the time of the stop, but said it likely would have required two hands to shoot the weapon.

The state's use-of-force expert, Jeffrey Noble, said in his testimony that Yanez was not "objectively reasonable" in shooting Castile, and repeatedly mentioned that Yanez did not instruct him to put his hands on the wheel or dashboard of the car after disclosing that he had a gun. Noble also criticized Yanez for not telling other officers he had allegedly seen Castile's gun before shooting and called his claim that Castile matched the description of a recent robbery suspect--black with a wide-set nose--"bogus."

A former police officer himself, Noble once used deadly force on a bank robber who was holding a hostage at the time.

DAY 2: Diamond Reynolds testimony

Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile's girlfriend, returned to the witness stand again Tuesday in the trial of St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez to share her account of the fatal shooting. 

Reynolds was in the car when Yanez fatally shot Castile. She livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. Her four-year-old daughter was also in the car. 

Tuesday morning, the squad car video of the deadly traffic stop video was replayed, followed by Reynolds’ Facebook video.

On the witness stand, Reynolds acknowledged that Castile had a bag of marijuana in the car when she was picked up the night of the incident. She said Castile would smoke weed almost daily for the two to three years they were in a relationship.

Yanez defense attorney Earl Gray aggressively cross-examining Reynolds, and she acknowledged that she exaggerated how she was treated by police in the aftermath of the shooting. When asked why she started streaming the aftermath on Facebook Live, Reynolds said she felt people were not being protected against the police and wanted people “to know the truth” if she was shot in front of her daughter.

The judge allowed the jury to consider a question from the defense, asking Diamond Reynolds about the fact she has a civil attorney and could be considering a lawsuit against Officer Yanez and the police department. The defense believes this shows bias.

Yanez's partner testifies

Yanez’s former partner, Officer Joseph Kauser, also took the stand on Tuesday. Kauser was providing backup for Yanez on the night of the shooting. He was near the backseat window when Yanez fired his gun.

Kauser went through the dashcam video frame almost frame-for-frame by the jury. He said at the outset, he could see everyone in the vehicle and their hands. He said the traffic stop was not initially a concern for him.

When making a traffic stop involving a driver with a conceal permit, Kauser said he typically asks where the gun is and orders the driver to keep their hands visible, which Yanez did not do.

Day 1: Opening statements, dash cam video

Opening statements were made Monday afternoon after several developments earlier in the day, including the final selection of the 12 jurors chosen to serve.

Prosecutors opened up the trial by playing police dashboard camera video of the incident, which showcases Yanez fire seven shots in close to 10 seconds. Several people in the gallery cried at the startling footage.

Before that, both sides showcased their general arguments in their opening statements, with the defense starting things off by pointing to Yanez' self-defense training.

“He has to be proactive,” Yanez defense attorney Paul Engh said. “He is trained to go home at the end of the night. He is trained to protect himself.”

The prosecution, however, pointed to the number of shots fired as evidence of excessive force.

“In less than ten seconds, he fired seven shots,” Rick Dusterhoft. “Castile was hit five times, including twice in the heart and his last words were, ‘‘I wasn’t reaching.’”

Reynolds took the stand for approximately 30 minutes on Monday before court was adjourned for the day she discussed her relationship with Castile. She will continue her testimony on Tuesday and is expected to discuss the shooting. 

TIMELINE

June 5, 2017 - Opening statements made in trial

May 30, 2017 - Jury selection begins

November 16, 2016 - Officer Yanez charged with manslaughter

July 6, 2016 - Philando Castile fatally shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez

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