One week after a jury acquitted the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile in 2016, the judge who presided over the case wrote the five women and seven men a letter of support, saying the public and media have been unable to understand "what you were asked to do."
Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on June 16 of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety. Last July, Castile was pulled over by Yanez while driving his girlfriend and her young daughter in Saint Anthony. Dash cam footage shows that after notifying Yanez that he had a legal firearm on him, Castile was commanded not to reach for the gun. Just moments later, Yanez shot Castile seven times, hitting him five times, and Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, began streaming the aftermath live on Facebook.
The footage, released on June 20, horrified the public, with many questioning how the jury could come to the conclusion they did after watching it. In the letter, dated June 23, Judge William H. Leary wrote that criticism of the jury's decision "has focused primarily on a reaction to the squad-cam video and on consideration of issues you as jurors were never asked to address. 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." All of these topics have become part of the national discussion following several recent high-profile shootings of black men and women across the country.
Leary also told the jurors that any anger over the verdict is "likely due to failure to understand what you were asked to do and that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake," ABC News reports. Days after the verdict was reached, the city of Saint Anthony settled with Castile's mother for nearly $3 million, saying that "no amount of money could ever replace Philando."