St. Paul, Minnesota - The judge who presided over the trial of the shooting of black motorist Philando Castile wrote a letter to the jury saying that the state’s failure to prove any of the elements of the charges required that they return a verdict of not guilty, according to Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Ramsey County District Judge William Leary III said the public criticism of the not guilty verdict was “a failure to understand what you were asked to undertake.”
Castile was shot and killed while sitting in his car by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in July, 2016. Officer Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of felony discharge of a firearm, according to The Guardian.
The jury found Officer Yanez not guilty on all charges on June 16. The verdict triggered protests in the St. Paul area.
Judge Leary thanked the jurors for their service in the letter and added, “I write to re-assure you that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake,” according to the Star Tribune.
The letter was dated June 23 and filed with the courts on June 28, according to the Minnesota newspaper.
Leary wrote that he was not giving his own opinion on the shooting, but told the jury their verdict “was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply.”
Leary addressed all the elements of the law the prosecutors had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
“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. “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 criticism of the jury’s decision of which I am aware has focused primarily on a reaction to the squad-cam video and on consideration of issues you as jurors were never asked to address,” Leary wrote, according to the Star Tribune. “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.”
The jury was initially deadlocked in the case 10-2 with two holdouts against acquittal, according to the newspaper. On the fifth day of deliberations, they came back with the not-guilty verdict.