Attorneys representing police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile are asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court judge's refusal to move his trial out of Ramsey County.
It's an unusual maneuver that they hope will distance Yanez's trial from what they believe is a tainted jury pool and biased news coverage.
"We believe our motion for change of venue should have been granted, and that we have a viable change of venue reversal in the court of appeals," said defense attorney Paul Engh.
Engh and fellow defense attorneys Earl Gray and Thomas Kelly originally filed a motion for a change of venue in March, citing Brainerd, Duluth, Hastings and St. Cloud as other options.
Ramsey County District Court Judge William H. Leary III denied their request, noting that publicity alone was not enough to move a trial.
"Rather, the fundamental issue is whether jurors from the community where the alleged crime occurred can honestly and in good conscience set aside pretrial publicity and their own impressions or opinions regarding the case," Leary wrote in his decision.
He said the issue could be revisited during jury selection if attorneys cannot find enough impartial jurors. Prosecutors had also suggested pursuing the issue at that time.
The defense's appeal to the higher court, filed Monday, recited many of the arguments from their initial motion.
"We live in a big state," the attorneys wrote. "Venue should be removed from where the Governor lives, where the [Black Lives Matter] protests have been frequent, away from the prominent media outlets … and Mr. Castile's personal memorial on Larpenteur Avenue."
Engh said it's unclear when the Court of Appeals would issue its decision.
Yanez, 29, a St. Anthony police officer, was charged Nov. 16 with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in the death of Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her then-4-year-old daughter were in the car.
Leary on Monday also issued an order guiding the case's progression toward its May 30 trial date: Witness and exhibit lists are due May 8, motions to limit or prevent certain evidence at trial are due May 10 and a pretrial hearing will be scheduled for May 18, among other deadlines.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708