Yanez trial: Jury reaches verdict

The jury in the trial for Officer Jeronimo Yanez still has not come to a unanimous decision.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The jury has reached a verdict in the manslaughter trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez, and that verdict will be delivered in a Ramsey County Courtroom about 2:45 p.m. Friday. 

KARE 11's Lou Raguse relayed that information shortly after 2:15 p.m.

The development came hours after a frenzy of movement that kicked off the fifth day of deliberations when everyone was hurried back to the courtroom for a question from the jury. 

The family of Philando Castile and Officer Jeronimo Yanez were ushered into the courtroom around 9:45 a.m. Friday, after attorneys for both sides arrived at the scene. 

Judge William Leary III was handed a note from the jury requesting to have the transcript of Yanez's testimony while on the stand -- and the cross examination -- read aloud in court but the judge denied the request. 

Leary said simply, he cannot do that and could not explain why. 

The very brief hearing ended with that, as jurors were sent back to deliberate. 

 

 

KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse said the takeaway from this questioning is the jury is struggling over whether they believe Yanez's testimony or not. 

Marsh Hallberg, a defense attorney who is not working on the Yanez case, said generally, evidence of testimony is not re-read because the concern is, more weight will be given to certain parts. He said the judge does not want to sway the jury, and re-reading testimony doesn't give the same nuances of tone, pauses, etc. 

In this trial, jurors were allowed to take their personal notes into deliberations with them, as well as review photos, just not exact testimony. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY

After admitting struggles in a dramatic moment at the courthouse Wednesday, the jury in the trial for Officer Jeronimo Yanez still has not come to a unanimous decision.

Deliberations ended shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Jurors will be back at it Friday at 8:30 a.m. Thursday's deliberations passed quietly, with no sudden hearings or requests to review evidence.

Yanez is charged with manslaughter in the death of Philando Castile, as well as two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for shots fired near Castile's girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter.

So who are the people who deliberating to determine the fate of Yanez? 

The 12-member panel includes five who said during jury selection they are gun owners, and one that used to be. 

The juror who is serving as the foreman said he first heard of the case when the judge told him about it. He did say he favors the legalization of marijuana during questioning.

Another juror has a wife who works for St. Paul Schools' lunch program and has a permit to carry. During questioning, the juror expressed distaste for Diamond Reynolds' Facebook video, calling it a "rant."

A middle-aged female juror said she has taken de-escalation training and that her husband was mugged once. She also said she loves Judge Judy.

A juror who works as an ER nurse -- a woman in her 30s or 40s -- made a point of saying the protests that have taken place on I-94 in recent years have blocked ambulances.

One juror sympathized with Castile's multiple traffic violations, stating they can see a "problem with how these minor things grow" while another voiced very favorable viewpoints regarding the criminal justice system and questioned Reynolds' "unusually calm" demeanor while recording her boyfriend's death.

The rest of the jurors admitted they knew very little about the case and assured the judge they didn't have any potential bias one way or another.

The mostly white jury does have two black jurors, who say they knew nothing about Castile or the circumstances surrounding the case. 

WEDNESDAY

A flurry of activity had many on the eighth floor of the Ramsey County Courthouse on edge and anticipating a possible verdict after everyone was led back into the courtroom Wednesday afternoon. 

After roughly 14 hours of deliberations, friends and family of both Officer Jeronimo Yanez and Philando Castile were ushered inside the courtroom for reasons unknown, along with the lawyers for both the defense and prosecution. 

Without any word of a verdict or a jury question, members of the media then walked into the courtroom where phones must be turned off. 

However, not even five minutes later, court was recessed after a struggling jury was told by Judge William Leary III to continue deliberations. 

According to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse, a handwritten note was given to the judge from the jury. While jury notes are often read out loud in court, the judge chose not to say what was on the note but instructed the jury, who was having trouble coming to consensus, that they must continue working toward a unanimous verdict. 

Judge Leary re-read the jury instructions on deliberating with a view toward reaching agreement and sent them back to work. 


Deliberations continued until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and the jury was not able to reach a verdict. Deliberations will resume Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Noted Attorney Tom Heffelfinger says today’s note likely means this jury is deadlocked. Still, it is too soon to say this will be a “hung jury."

“It’s clear here that this jury is still capable of communicating, therefore he’s going to let them work,” Heffelfinger said. 

Attorney Doug Kelley says the toll on families and the expense of a new trial will also compel the judge to keep the jury deliberating. 

“Going back and re-trying this entire case is so monumental. He’s going to try to get them to come to a verdict,” Kelley said.

Both Heffelfinger and Kelley believe the key to the case is how the jurors judge Yanez’s credibility.  However, that can also be a problem in the jury room.

“If jurors take different sides on an issue like that then it can be very, very difficult and very difficult to break a deadlock as well,” Heffelfinger said.
 

TUESDAY

The jury made a request on Tuesday to re-watch both the squad car video and the Facebook Live video of the fatal shooting. The request was granted and the jury watched the videos in open court. However, a request by the jury to be given the transcripts of the squad video were denied. The video did have closed captioning. 

The last time the jury viewed that video was June 7th.

The jury also made a request to view the transcript of the BCA interview conducted with Yanez, however, the judge denied that request because it was never submitted as evidence. 

On Friday, the prosecution wanted to submit that transcript as part of the evidence during cross-examination but was denied. Though prosecutors referenced the interview throughout the trial, they chose not to show the interview in court while presenting their case -- presumably to ensure Yanez would take the stand and give an opportunity to be cross-examined.

The judge did not allow them to use any of the BCA interview video during that cross-examination. 

That BCA interview does show some discrepancies that the prosecution is depending on -- such as Yanez saying he saw an "object" but not definitively saying it was a gun, as he did while on the stand. 

The prosecution tried to argue to the judge on Tuesday that the jury should be given access to the transcript, but the defense disagreed. The judge ruled in favor of Yanez's defense team. Tuesday afternoon Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released a statement explaining the prosecution strategy, insisting he believes the request to introduce the tape during cross-examination was legally sound.

Under the rules of evidence, the BCA interview is a statement by the defendant, a party opponent. The rules of evidence clearly allow for the statement’s admission into evidence during cross examination. Strategically, we felt the statement would be best used for impeachment purposes on cross examination when the defendant took the stand in his own defense. The Defense objected to our introduction of the entire audio. We were still able to introduce his conflicting statements for impeachment purposes, but not in the manner we had planned on, which was to have the defendant listen and respond to questions as it was being played. Today, we once again asserted on the record our request to have the jury hear the entire BCA audio.

While Castile's family waits with the rest of the country for a verdict in this case, they are doing what they can to try and contain protests. 

Danny Givens, a St. Paul pastor, posted on behalf of the family Tuesday asking for no protests, rallies or marching until a verdict is in.

In similar fashion, Philando's mother, Valerie, posted a Facebook Live video on Monday, calling for people to stand in solidarity and allow the jury to do its job. 

A small group of people who support Castile gathered at the courthouse to await the verdict.

Among them is KingDemetrius Pendleton. The 47-year-old Minneapolis man has been wearing a T-shirt with Philando Castile's photo that says "Justice 4 Philando," and "Hands Up Don't Shoot," with the hashtag "#BlackLivesMatter." He's also been posting video commentaries on social media.

Pendleton named several other black men who have been killed by police in recent years. He said none of those officers has been held responsible.

He says he's optimistic that Officer Yanez might be convicted in Castile's death. But Pendleton says it will be just a "mustard seed of justice" if he is.

MONDAY

The jury has ended its first partial day of deliberations without a verdict in the trial of a police officer who fatally shot a black motorist last year during a traffic stop.

Jeronimo Yanez, a 29-year-old Latino officer, is charged in the July 6 death of Philando Castile. The officer shot the driver five times seconds after Castile told him he was carrying a gun. Castile had a permit for the weapon.

The jury heard closing arguments Monday and deliberated for about a half-day. Jurors will return Tuesday morning.

Assistant Ramsey County Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen began his closing arguments shortly after 10 a.m., describing what he called Officer Yanez's impulsive decision that led to Castile's ultimate death -- one that he said makes him guilty of culpable negligence. 

"Officer Yanez used deadly force as a first option rather than a last resort," he told the jury. 

Paulsen spent a considerable amount of time questioning why Yanez would say Castile was going for his gun when it made zero sense for him to do so. 

"He had no reason to do that. He had every reason not to do that," he said. "It doesn't make sense."

Paulsen went back to the brief conversation Castile had with Yanez that night -- and the fact Castile told him he had a firearm, as the dash camera showed -- as further proof of why it wouldn't make sense for Castile to be motivated to pull it out and use it. 

Yanez never said he was sure he saw a gun, until he testified, Paulsen said. In his interview with the BCA, Yanez said, "I know he had an object ... it was dark."

There's just too much doubt to whether or not Yanez saw Castile's gun, Paulsen told the jury.

"You have to be sure before you shoot. He wasn't even close to being sure," he said. "We all know this is a sad case. But it isn't a hard case when it comes to assigning criminal liability."

As Paulsen concluded his closing statements, the judge instructed the jurors that "culpable negligence" is a high level of negligence -- gross negligence coupled with recklessness. 

Defense attorney Earl Gray did not pull punches during his closing argument, saying prosecutors had "failed miserably in proving beyond a reasonable doubt."

Gray was more emphatic in his argument, calling the state's argument "unfair," especially their claim that there is zero evidence Castile was pulling out his gun out of his right pocket. The gun was later found in that pocket.

"How did Officer Yanez know that unless he saw it? He knew where the gun was and he described it. How in the world can the State of Minnesota, the prosecution, be so unfair about that statement?" Gray said.

Gray told the jury they "could reasonably infer" that Castile sat in his car and smoked marijuana while Diamond Reynolds, her sister and daughter went inside Cub Foods prior to the shooting.

He told the jury "drugs and guns don't mix," and that Castile being stoned contributed to his failing to follow Offier Yanez's command not to reach for the gun.

Gray asked the jury to give more weight to their use-of-force experts than the prosecution's.

"They had to go to California to find a guy to testify against Officer Yanez," Gray said.

In closing, Gray told the jury, "It's not that hard of a case. Think about it. Think about an officer in that position."

Jurors broke for lunch at 1:10 p.m. and began deliberations after that.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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