ST. PAUL, Minn. – The presiding judge over the case of police officer Jeronimo Yanez’ manslaughter charge for the shooting death of Philando Castile has written jurors a letter of support.
The Star Tribune obtained a copy of the letter, which condemns the far reaching public criticism of the decision as “a failure to understand what you were asked to do.” The 12 member jury acquitted Yanez of the manslaughter charge, as well as two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III thanked the jurors for the public service they provided to Minnesota and the United States as a whole.
“I write to reassure you that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake,” Leary wrote, reports the Star Tribune.
Leary specifically declined to give his own opinion on Yanez’ guilt or innocence, but he lauded the jurors for the decision they did reach.
“The state’s failure to prove any of the required elements of the charge required that you, the jury, return a verdict of not guilty,” Leary wrote, according to the Star Tribune. “As we discussed when we met shortly after the verdict, I cannot convey my own opinions as to guilt or acquittal, but your verdict was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply.”
The letter was dated June 23 and filed with courts on June 28, a few days after the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released dash cam footage showing the encounter where Yanez fired seven shots at Castile in quick succession.
“You were never asked to decide whether racism continues to exist, whether certain members of our community are disproportionately affected by police tactics, or whether police training is ineffective,” Leary wrote, reports the Star Tribune. “You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed.”