MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO-TV reporter Bill Hudson has been covering the Jeronimo Yanez trial extensively, and was at the courthouse when Yanez was acquitted of the charges in the shooting death of Philando Castile.
On Friday, Hudson hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, where users asked him anything about the trial and its aftermath.
Here are highlights from the AMA:
Do you think if the jurors saw the video of Diamond Renyold’s daughter it would’ve affected the outcome?
What was the jury like… anything you can share about how they were feeling during deliberations?
Hudson: What struck me was their reaction to the playing of the officer Yanez squad video. There was complete silence in the courtroom when it was played for the first time. From the few jurors we actually spoke with the deliberations began split, 6-6 and eventually after 4 days was down to 10-2 in favor of acquittal.
Have you seen in your past reporting that juries typically have visible reactions to evidence? There isn’t really a way to control that, right?
The fact they reacted quite visibly is not at all that unusual. I have seen other jurors react as well, especially to gruesome autopsy photographs and compelling video and audio. I can say however, that the Judge in this case allowed some time to pass, likely deliberately, for emotions to settle and everyone to regain composure.
I understand the state didn’t introduce Yanez’s interview with the BCA as evidence. Do you know why they wouldn’t have included that?
That’s a great question and one many are asking. It became a point of contention at the closing of the trial as the state again requested Judge Leary to allow it. The state apparently was holding on to that in hopes they could get Yanez to impeach himself after he had taken the stand and told jurors he saw a gun. The state could have introduced that BCA interview during its phase of the trial but chose not to. By the time the defense had begun its case, the judge ruled it too late. This appears a bit of strategy on the state’s part that appears to have backfired. The state was allowed to use portions of the Yanez interview but not enough to reveal what he told BCA interviewer.
You said the courtroom was silent after viewing the dashcam footage. How chilling was that and what broke the silence? Or what was your take on Yanez’s reaction to seeing the footage and hearing it over again?
I just recall going home that night feeling the state had a “slam dunk.” Boy, was I wrong… but that had a huge impact on everyone in the courtroom that day. It would be eventually played over and over multiple times by the state. But in the end as powerful as it was it could not convince jurors because it doesn’t show what Yanez was seeing. Jurors have said that as well, the state did not prove that Yanez did not see that gun coming out of Castile’s pocket.
Something that I feel hasn’t been discussed is the actual laws in place regarding police officers and how/when their use of deadly force is allowed. Can you speak to the bar that the prosecution had to clear in the case and how is it different for policemen versus civilians?
The requirement is for the jurors to find if he acted “reasonably.” What would another reasonable officer do facing the same situation. If the officer feels harm coming to another or himself he or she can use deadly source to stop that threat.
This winter, Axon announced they would provide free body cameras to any police department if they would agree to use their storage services. Have you reported on the status of police body cameras, and where does Minnesota stand in regard to that?
We do have some departments in Minnesota now using body cameras but St. Anthony is not among them.
Did you see any interaction between the families? Was it tense in the courtroom throughout the trial?
Absolutely no interaction between the families and respective supporters. It was very civil both in the courtroom and out. The tension was most felt on opening day when the squad video was first shown and the actual verdict. When Yanez took the stand I did notice more of his family and fellow officers in the courtroom. In fact, there was so much family and priority seating that nobody from the general public was allowed into the relatively small courtroom.
Were you surprised by the verdict? Of all the high profile acquittals of police officers over the last few years, how shocking was this one by comparison?
I was a bit surprised that it did not end in a hung jury. I thought for sure there would be a couple of jurors who could not be convinced he was acting as another “reasonable” officer would have in the same circumstances. But I believe that less than 10%of all cases nationwide of an officer charged with taking a life end with a guilty verdict, so I knew the bar is high for the prosecution to prove.
Was there anything that could have been done differently to avoid the tragic outcome?
How would you rate the performance of the attorneys involved?
Both the state and the defense had incredible legal teams. I’ve seen Richard Dusterhoff prosecute before (Brian Fitch, who killed officer Scott Patrick) and he is thorough and has great courtroom presence. Also, Clayton Robinson and Jeffrey Paulsen did a superb job. But were some mistakes made in the case? Probably and I’m sure if they could prosecute over again we would see a different case. On the other hand, Earl Gray is among the finest defense lawyers in the area. Helped by Paul Engh and Tom Kelly, each of them took portions of the trial. Kelly’s questioning of Yanez was thorough and sensitive. But in the end, jurors responded to the testimony and evidence presented to them and NOT the legal teams as it should and must be.
Besides a civil suit from the family, will Yanez face any more legal action? Can the case be retried, or is that only if they find new evidence?
Just the civil suit(s). He could only be retried if the jurors had reached an impasse and the judge would have declared a mistrial.
How do you feel about Officer Yanez being fired despite being acquitted of the charges?
I think it was a mutual decision and one that most expected. Tough to carry on in the community he serves with that history following you. Can’t imagine him wanting to return.
If you had the opportunity to interview Yanez, what would you ask him?