Judge In Yanez Trial Lends His Support To Jurors

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — The judge who presided over the manslaughter trial of a Minnesota police officer acquitted in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile tells jurors that he supports them despite public criticism.

Judge William Leary III says in a letter to jurors he’s not providing his own opinion of Jeronimo Yanez‘s actions, but that their verdict was supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law.

Yanez fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in July 2016. In November, he was charged with second-degree manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm.

In mid-June, a jury found Yanez not guilty of any charges in relation to the shooting.

The verdict was followed by several days of protests.

In the letter, Judge Leary III thanked the jurors for their service and said the criticism they received was a failure the understand the process jurors go through.

Leary wrote:

“Your job was to determine whether Officer Yanez had committed the crime charged by the state…The statutes that you were instructed to apply required that the State prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Officer Yanez created an unreasonable, substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing death or great bodily harm, of which he was aware, and then disregarded the risk. This disregard must have been one that goes beyond gross negligence and was coupled with recklessness. As to the specific allegations of the State, the law further required that the State prove, beyond a reasonable doubt. that a reasonable and prudent police officer would have realized that, in those few seconds and under circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving, the words he was choosing, his tone of voice, and his failure to create “time and space” were creating an unreasonable, substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

He continued saying that much of the criticism of the jury’s decision came after people saw the dashcam video, which he said they as jurors were 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. You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed,” Leary III wrote.

He ended the letter saying that he had no doubt each of the jurors fulfilled their commitment and said it was an honor to serve with them all.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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