The Minnesota judge who presided over the case against a police officer who fatally shot a 32-year-old Black motorist in July 2016 is publicly supporting the jurors who acquitted him.
The June 16 decision to clear Jeronimo Yanez of all charges in Philando Castile’s death was met with widespread opposition. The mostly White jury came to the conclusion despite video footage showing the officer shooting at Castile seven times in quick succession during a routine traffic stop.
According to court records, Castile was struck five times after informing Yanez that he had a weapon, which he was licensed to carry. Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety.
“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,” Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III wrote in the letter dated June 23. “You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed.”
“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 continued.
Castile’s killing came during a time in which a growing number of African-American men were killed after encounters with law enforcement. It sparked a wave of protests and raised broader concerns regarding police interactions with citizens.
Last week, the city of Saint Anthony Village agreed to pay roughly $3 million to Castile’s mother in a settlement related to his death, according to ABC News.