Minnesota cop's attorneys request new judge in Castile case

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2016 10:32 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Attorneys for the Minnesota police officer who faces a manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile are removing the judge who was assigned to the case.

Lawyers for St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez filed a notice Thursday to remove Ramsey County District Court Judge Edward Wilson. Under rules of criminal procedure in Minnesota, defense attorneys and prosecutors can each strike one assigned judge from a case without giving a reason. The requests are automatically granted.

Wilson, who is black, was initially assigned to the case because of his experience — he's been on the bench since 1987 and is the second most senior judge in the district.

Defense attorney Earl Gray said they filed the notice to remove Wilson based on research. He did not elaborate further.

"We felt that we had to remove him. Simple as that," said Gray, who has previously tried a case before Wilson.

Castile, who was black, was killed July 6 during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The shooting's gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Castile's girlfriend, who was with him in the car at the time. Prosecutors have said the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker was shot at seven times after telling Yanez he was armed and had a permit to carry.

Yanez, who is Latino, has claimed in court documents that Castile didn't say he had a permit. His attorneys are asking that the case be dismissed, saying Castile was negligent in his own death because he was high on marijuana and didn't obey Yanez's commands.

Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann said Monday that he assigned Wilson to the case because of the judge's availability and experience. He said Wilson's race didn't play a role.

Gray said he expects Guthmann to assign a new judge within a week. Then, 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.