Jury deliberates in manslaughter trial of Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez, who killed Castile seconds after the black motorist said he had a gun
A Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black motorist seconds after “the mens” informed him he was carrying a firearm did what he had to do in a thoroughly justifiable use of force, a defense attorney argued Monday.
Hours earlier, prosecutors said the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, had never seen the gun and had plenty of options short of shooting Philando Castile, a 32 -year-old school cafeteria worker they say was never a threat.
Yanezs manslaughter trial went to a jury after both sides devoted closing debates in which they recapped their versions of a shooting that described extra attention because Castiles girlfriend livestreamed the gruesome aftermath on Facebook.
Yanezs attorney, Earl Gray, reminded the jury of the officers testimony that Castile looked like a human who had robbed a convenience store four days earlier. He said Castile had disregarded the officers orders and reached for his gun because he was stoned on marijuana. And he told Yanez had been afraid for his life.
He pulled out his handgun, and he did what he had to do, Gray told.
The prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy proof in his closing argument, reminding the jury of a bullet wound to what would have been Castiles trigger finger and noted that there was no corresponding bullet injury nor wounds in the area of Castiles right shorts pocket, where he carried his firearm. He also quoth testimony from first responders of Castiles gun falling out of his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.
He asked the jury to consider what might have happened if Yanez, when tell of the handgun, had simply stepped back a few feet to better assess the situation. The policeman might have heard Castile say he was just trying to get his wallet, Paulsen told.
If he had done that, everybody would have gone home safely that night, the prosecutor said. He also alluded to evidence from defense witness who portrayed Yanez as a good and honest man.
The victim in this case was a good man, too, Paulsen told, and referred to Castiles job at an elementary school. The kids loved him, and he was a role model to them. And now theyve been deprived of that role model.
Castile had THC, the high-giving component of marijuana, in his blood when he died. The two sides called vying experts earlier who disagree over whether Castile was incapacitated. Gray reached the questions again in his closing.
Guns and drugs dont mix. This is a classic example of why, if you are a user of drugs, even marijuana, youre not allowed to have a gun, Gray said.
Yanez, who is Latino, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and with two lesser countings of endangering the safety of Castiles girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter for firing his firearm into the car near them.
Conviction on the manslaughter charge requires the jury to find Yanez guilty of culpable negligence, which the magistrate described in jury instructions as gross negligence with an element of recklessness.
After three white alternates were rejected following closing arguments, the 12 -member jury includes two black people. The remainder are white. None are Latino.
Yanez testified Friday that he stopped Castile in the St Paul suburb of Falcon Heights because he guessed Castile looked like one of two men who had robbed a nearby convenience store a few days earlier. A faulty brake light gave the policeman sufficient reason to pulling him over, several experts testified.
Squad-car video played repeatedly for the jury last week shows that the situation escalated quickly, with Yanez shooting Castile simply seconds after the driver volunteered, Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me. Five of the officers seven shootings struck Castile.
After he shot Castile, Yanez is heard on the squad car video telling a supervisor variously that he didnt know where Castiles gun was, then that he told Castile to get his hand off it. Yanez testified Friday that he meant that he didnt know where the firearm was up until I assured it in his right thigh region.
Paulsen reminded the jury of the recorded statements on Monday, saying they should consider them accurate. Gray said attorneys were taking the statements out of context.
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