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Key developments in Minnesota officer's manslaughter trial

13 June 2017

Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave closing arguments Monday in the manslaughter trial of the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile last summer, before the jury began deliberating his fate.

The officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016 testified in court Friday that he fired his gun because he feared for his life.

But Yanez's lawyers say Castile ignored the officer's commands and reached for his gun when he was instructed not to do so.

Dusterhoft ended his cross-examination by recounting the final moments of Yanez holding his gun over Castile before the first responding officers from another department arrived on scene soon after the incident. (Yanez) fired seven rounds into that vehicle.

The 32-year-old school cafeteria worker was one in a string of black men to die at the hands of police in recent years, and his death drew additional attention because his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

Yanez, who is Latino, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and two lesser counts of endangering the safety of Reynolds and her daughter for firing his gun into the auto near them.

Yanez previously said he was justified in stopping Castile's auto because he resembled a suspect in a convenience store robbery, court documents said.

Castile had THC, a component of marijuana, in his blood when he died. Paulsen pointed to a bullet wound on Castile's trigger finger, arguing there was no bullet hole in his trousers or any damage to the gun.

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When Castile was telling Yanez that he was "not reaching for it", Yanez admitted that he was experiencing tunnel vision simultaneously, Paulsen argued.

The prosecutor concluded his closing argument by stating that all experts agreed on one thing: use of deadly force doesn't become justified after the fact.

The defense said that Yanez, 29, reacted to the presence of a gun and was trained to preserve his own life in the face of imminent danger, pointing out that traffic stops are unsafe and officers need to think quickly. He also alluded to testimony from defense witnesses who portrayed Yanez as a good and honest man. Gray said prosecutors were taking the statements out of context.

Jurors were instructed to consider the concepts of reasonable use of force and any potential negligence of Castile. Jurors were to return Tuesday morning. Gray hit the issue again in his closing.

Gray went on to say that Yanez was traumatized and that "he saw the gun". But a prosecution expert testified there's no way to tell when Castile last smoked marijuana or whether he was high.

So what are the legal standards that the jury will have to consider as they begin deliberations?

Conviction of the officer's manslaughter charge requires the jury to find Yanez guilty of "culpable negligence", which the judge described in jury instructions as gross negligence with an element of recklessness.