ST. PAUL, Minn. - Attorneys for the St. Anthony Police officer charged in the shooting death of motorist Philando Castile have filed for a change of venue for his upcoming trial.
The motion, file in court by attoreys Earl Gray, Thomas Kelly and Paul Engh, asserts that publicity adverse to officer Jeronimo Yanez has “created a reasonable likelihood that a fair trial cannot be had.”
Yanez fatally shot Castile the night of July 6, 2016 after pulling him over on a traffic stop. The officer says Castile was reaching for his gun and believed his life was in danger, while prosecutors insist videotape of the incident reflects that Castile informed the officer he had a gun and a permit to carry, and was 'not' reaching for a weapon.
The aftermath of the fatal shooting was broadcast live on Facebook by Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and the story made headlines and launched protests across the U.S. and the globe.
In the motion Yanez's defense team asserts the flurry of news stories that followed the fatal shooting were:
Slanted against him, written and voiced on the air with nary a mention of due process, the presumption ofinnocence, the importance of a trial, the jury, or of what the defense will be. Instead, Mr. Castile’s death was more often than not, indeed instantly, categorized as one of perverse racial profiling.
Yaenz's team also cites Governor Mark Dayton's comments while addressing Black Lives Matter protestors that the Castile shooting was race-based. "Shocked and horrified by what occurred last night, a horrible horrible tragedy, a senseless tragedy,” it quotes the governor as saying. “Would this have happened if the driver and passenger were white? I don’t think it would have.”
On November 16 Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced that Yanez would be charged with manslaughter in Castile's death. The officer's defense team says Choi told the gathered media "I would submit that no reasonable officer knowing, seeing, and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances," what they deem a prejudicial comment suggesting that a trial to determine their client's guilt or innocence is not even necessary.