Officer’s lawyers ask for new judge in Philando Castile case

ST. PAUL -- Defense attorneys for the St. Anthony police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of a black motorist last summer have asked for a new judge.

Jeronimo Yanez

ST. PAUL -- Defense attorneys for the St. Anthony police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of a black motorist last summer have asked for a new judge.

A motion was filed by Jeronimo Yanez’s legal team Thursday afternoon requesting the removal of Ramsey County District Judge Edward Wilson from the case, according to court records.

The rules of criminal procedure allow each side to strike one judge without cause, according to Earl Gray, one of the three attorneys representing Yanez.

“We only get one removal but we felt (based on our) research and my personal experience … that it was important to remove (Wilson) … for our client to get a fair trial,” Gray said.

He declined to elaborate further.


Wilson, who is black, was appointed by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1987 and elected to the bench in 1988, 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2012.

He was assigned to oversee Yanez’s case Monday by Ramsey County Chief District Judge John Guthmann.

Neither Wilson nor Guthmann could be reached for comment Thursday. The Ramsey County attorney’s office declined to comment on the defense’s decision.

Gray said he expects Guthman to assign a new judge to the case within the next week. From there, he said the defense team can begin laying out its strategy.

“Obviously, this is a case that is going to have a lot of motions filed, and this is obviously a case that is going to go to trial, so we will find out from the judge we get what his schedule will be and then go from there,” Gray said.

Yanez, 28, faces a felony manslaughter charge after his fatal shooting of 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop July 6 in Falcon Heights. He was also charged with two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

Castile, who was licensed to carry a firearm, reportedly told Yanez before the shooting that he had a gun with him.

Yanez is the first Minnesota officer in memory to be charged in such an incident.


The shooting gained national attention when Castile’s girlfriend, who was with him in the car at the time, began live-streaming the aftermath on Facebook. Protests over police shootings broke out across the Twin Cities.

In announcing his charging decision in November, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said his office’s review of the evidence indicated Castile “never removed nor tried to remove his handgun from his right pocket, which was a foot deep,” before Yanez shot him.

In fact, during his short interaction with the officer, Castile reportedly told Yanez he “wasn’t pulling it out,” Choi said.

His final words before Yanez fired were allegedly, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”

“I would submit that no reasonable officer knowing, seeing or hearing what officer Yanez did would have used deadly force,” Choi said during a November news conference annoucing the charges.

Yanez’s attorneys have said previously that Yanez’s reaction was in response to the “presence” of a gun in the car and that he was in fear for his life and that of his fellow officer at the scene when he decided to shoot.

Last week the defense team filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that Castile was high on marijuana during the traffic stop and thereby negligent in his own death.

Yanez, a married father of one, is a four-year veteran of the St. Anthony Police Department.

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