Yanez trial: Prosecution rests, police chief takes stand
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The prosecution rested its case against St. Anthony, Minn. police officer Jeronimo Yanez first thing Thursday morning, calling no further witnesses. Yanez is on trial for manslaughter for the July 6, 2016 shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The shooting garnered national attention when Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the aftermath of the fatal shooting on Facebook Live.
The first three days of the trial included squad car dashcam video of the shooting and testimony from Reynolds and multiple use-of-force experts. As the case shifted to the defense Thursday, attorneys for Yanez ran through nearly 10 witnesses in quick succession before several uniformed St. Anthony police officers who were present in the courtroom.
St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth was the premier defense character witness, speaking glowingly about Yanez as a man and as a police officer.
Yanez Attorney Paul Engh asked the chief about an officer shooting a person who had his hand on a gun and refused commands. Mangseth said that type of situation would be "very concerning" and he would expect "action to be taken."
After the trial's lunch break, jurors watched surveillance video of the armed robbery at a Super USA store near the site of the shooting that Castile was originally linked to. In police dispatch audio released by St. Anthony, Yanez stated before stopping Castile that he resembled the suspect from that incident, though both sides agreed in court that Castile was not present for the incident.
The defense's use-of-force expert Joe Dutton contradicted testimony from the prosecution's expert Wednesday, saying that Yanez was justified in shooting Castile--though he admitted he did not factor in Castile's comments to the officer.
Dutton also believes Yanez saw Castile's firearm because he made a C-shaped grip with his hand when ordered not to reach for his gun.
LAST NIGHT: Falcon Heights prepares to sever ties with St. Anthony Police
The defense also called a number of police officers to the stand who responded to the shooting scene. Yanez Attorney Earl Gray confirmed that the defense planned to call Yanez to the witness stand Friday.
NOTE: The defense team asked the judge for an immediate acquittal of the charges against Yanez after the state rested -- a fairly routine move. The request was denied.
Philando Castile shooting: The trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez
DAY 1: Squad video played, opening statements
DAY 2: Diamond Reynolds and Yanez's partner testify
DAY 3: Use of force experts testify
Reporter’s notebook, from Fox 9’s Ted Haller
BATTLE OF THE EXPERTS: Lawyers call the portion of a case when each side presents expert witnesses the Battle of the Experts. They unfold predictably. One side presents their witness, pumping up their credentials and experience before asking their opinion on the case. Then, the other side, in cross examination, does their best to tear into the witness’s credibility and opinion. Common tricks: pointing out they got paid for their time, noting their salary previous years, poking holes in their methodologies, bringing out past writings to contradict current opinions, and more. We saw all of that on Wednesday when the prosecution introduced Jeff Noble, a use-of-force expert. The prosecutors did their best to inoculate Noble from cross examination by acknowledging the amount of money they’ve already paid him, $20,000. Prosecutors were aided by the fact Noble seems to side with the police about half the time -- experts who are on one side by a wide margin are more easily cross examined. Also noteworthy: Noble, when he was a police officer, shot and killed a bank robber, so he is an expert who has used deadly force criticizing another for deadly force.
A SMALL DOSE OF THE CONSTITUTION: Jeff Noble, the use-of-force expert, analyzed three factors to conclude Yanez used unreasonable force in shooting Castile. The three factors were not pulled from thin air; they came from a U.S. Supreme Court case called Graham v. Connor. The case introduced three factors to analyze the reasonableness of an officer’s action versus a person’s rights: (1) the severity of the crime at issue, (2) whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, and (3) whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest. Applying the factors to the Yanez case, Noble concluded the crime was not severe (broken brake light), Castile was not an immediate threat (does not believe Yanez ever saw a gun), and Castile did not resist.
UNTOLD STORY: During cross examination, Yanez defense attorney Tom Kelly mentioned a story not heard before about the officer. The attorney said there was an incident when someone resisting arrest may have tried to get Yanez's gun. Kelly said the pair wrestled before Yanez restored order. Perhaps we will hear more about this when Yanez testifies.