(CN) – Attorneys for the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in July say the manslaughter charge against him should be dropped because Castile was high on marijuana at the time of the incident.
Jeronimo Yanez and his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss Wednesday and a memo supporting the motion.
Yanez’s push to dismiss the felony manslaughter charge against him follows the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement that it will conduct a comprehensive review of the St. Anthony Police Department, which was deeply criticized nationwide over the incident.
Last month, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for the shooting of Castile during a traffic stop on July 6.
The immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed by Diamond Reynolds, who was a passenger in the car along with her 4-year-old daughter in the backseat.
The shooting spawned protests at the governor’s mansion and other parts of the country, including a demonstration in Oakland, Calif., that shut down an interstate for hours.
According to Yanez’s memo, Castile lied on his application for a permit to carry a firearm and denied that he used any controlled substance.
"This is critical because unlawful narcotic users are not eligible to own, let alone carry a firearm on their person,” according to his attorneys, led by Earl Gray of St. Paul.
Photographs of marijuana were discovered on Castile's Instagram account from 2012, the memo states, and Castile was issued three marijuana-in-vehicle tickets in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
Yanez’s attorneys also say blood draws from Castile revealed high levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
"Evaluation of the defense expert Glenn Hardin, who was formerly employed by the [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] and often testified on behalf of the State of Minnesota, establishes that Mr. Castile was intoxicated,” the memo states. “The status of being stoned (in an acute and chronic sense) explains why Mr. Castille: 1) did not follow the repeated directions of Officer Yanez; 2) stared straight ahead and avoided eye-contact; 3) never mentioned that he had a carry permit, but instead said he had a gun; and 4) he did not show his hands.” (Parentheses in original.)
Glenda Hatchett, former TV court show star and attorney for the Castile family, released a statement Thursday in response to the motion to dismiss.
"This is the designed play for the defense of police officers who kill citizens, always blame the victim,” she said. “Earl Gray has done this for decades. They want to say and have you believe that Philando was the negligent one and somehow that matters in excusing or defending the officer."
Hatchett added, "Similarly, the lawyers claim that Yanez could not be liable because he had no duty to Philando, simply because he had marijuana in his system and cite cases that supposedly support that ludicrous assertion. The United States Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States and the State of Minnesota. by enacting Minn. Stat Section 609.066, state the exact opposite."
But Yanez's attorneys argue that an objective review of the squad-car video confirmed the officer’s description of why he acted in self-defense and why Castile himself was "culpably negligent and was the substantial cause of his own demise.”
"He should not even have been driving while under the influence. He should have showed his hands. He should not have reached for the handgun, the same handgun found at the scene, the handgun Officer Yanez described,” the memo states.
In addition to Gray, Yanez is represented by Thomas Kelly in Minneapolis.
Robert Bennett with Gaskins Bennett serves as co-counsel for Castile’s family.
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