Defense attorneys representing the St. Anthony police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile contend that three law enforcement agents who investigated the incident said early on that they considered his actions justified.
In a memo, Jeronimo Yanez's attorneys say they want the internal communications of three Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, "all of whom indicated to officer Yanez and his lawyers, before his formal statement was recorded, that the shooting of Castile was justified."
Ramsey County prosecutors sought to quash the subpoena of the three agents, arguing they "should not be allowed to subpoena the State's investigators for live testimony [on April 4] … in order to conduct a fishing expedition into whether the agents do or do not have opinions about the case. …"
Yanez has pleaded not guilty and is expected to present a self-defense case at trial. A motion hearing is set for April 4, and a trial is scheduled for May 30.
The defense also continued arguments to move the trial to Brainerd, Duluth, Hastings or St. Cloud, arguing against the prosecution's claims that the trial should stay in the county despite widespread media coverage.
"While it may be true that eight months have elapsed, the memorial to Mr. Castile is still carefully maintained, projecting a message for everyone who drives by or walks by today that an unjustified murder occurred at this particular place, a murder racially motivated," defense attorneys wrote. "Elsewhere in St. Paul, protests continue."
The filings come ahead of a Tuesday hearing for Yanez, 29, who was charged Nov. 16 with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in the fatal shooting of Castile, 32, during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter also were in the car.
Yanez's attorneys, Paul Engh, Earl Gray and Thomas Kelly, filed notice Thursday that they planned to call retired Golden Valley police officer Joseph Dutton and Emanuel Kapelsohn of Allentown, Pa., as their use-of-force experts.
The defense has tried to quash testimony from the prosecution's use-of-force expert, Jeffrey Noble, arguing that his determination that Yanez acted unreasonably is not supported by case law or evidence.
The real issue, Gray said, is Noble, whom Ramsey County has paid at least $18,400.
"It is admissible … that the amount of money paid to a man, paid by Ramsey County taxpayers, for an expert from California to fly here and tell us Minnesotans what is proper and improper in police conduct," Gray said.
"It is common for the parties to use paid experts in cases of this type, as the prosecutors intend to do at trial," Ramsey County attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said. Francis Shen, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said expert witnesses from either side aren't free of bias regardless of how much or how little they're paid.
"Attorneys on either side … are trying to advocate vigorously," Shen said. "And good experts cost money. It's hard to say … what is reasonable and what's unreasonable."
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib