Judge in Minnesota police shooting offers jurors support

2017-07-05 08:58
Protesters hold an image Philando Castile and march down the street during a protest. (Courtney Pedroza/Star Tribune via AP)

Protesters hold an image Philando Castile and march down the street during a protest. (Courtney Pedroza/Star Tribune via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

St Paul - The judge who presided over the manslaughter trial of a Minnesota police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile took the unusual step of writing to the jurors to tell them that he supports them despite widespread public criticism of their verdict.

"I write to re-assure you that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake," Ramsey County District Judge William Leary III said in his letter to the jury, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported on Tuesday.

The judge told jurors he was not providing his own opinion of St Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez's actions during the fatal traffic stop last July in the St Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, but wanted to convey that their verdict "was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply".

Reached on Monday, Leary issued a short statement to the newspaper that said, "I appreciate your interest, but I don't believe any discussion would be of any additional value."

The verdict on June 16 sparked a rally at the State Capitol, which gave way to a march through St Paul that shut down light rail service and ended with a confrontation with authorities on Interstate 94.

Dashboard video

Leary sent his letter a few days after authorities released dramatic dashboard camera video showing the Latino officer firing seven shots at the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker in a matter of seconds, just after Castile informed Yanez he was armed.

The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile's girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

During his trial, Yanez, 29, testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun. The officer said he feared for his life. According to squad car video that captured the shooting, Castile said "I'm not pulling it out" before Yanez opened fire. Castile's last words were: "I wasn't reaching ... "

Reynolds later said Castile was reaching for his wallet.

In his letter, Leary broke down the multiple elements of the law that prosecutors were required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, including whether Yanez acted with gross negligence and recklessness.

"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.

Racism

Leary wrote that the criticism has focused primarily on reaction to the squad car video and issues that the jury was never asked to address.

"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," he said. "You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed."

Yanez attorney Earl Gray said he appreciated Leary's letter.

"He told the jury they followed the law and did their duty," Gray said. "I'm sure the jurors felt better."

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday that it had no comment.

"It's unusual to do a letter after the fact, but there's nothing inappropriate about this letter," said local defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who was not involved in the case.

"I say hats off to him for doing this, because the jury received an inordinate amount of criticism. The issue was whether the state proved its case, not greater social issues."

Read more on:    us  |  racism

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

For the love of Corgis!

WATCH: 35 Corgi's to make your day! If they’re good enough for the Queen of England they’re good enough for us.

 
 

Paws

Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
WATCH: These funny animal videos will make you LOL!
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.