The people who served on the jury during Jeronimo Yanez's manslaughter trial got some support from the judge who presided over the case.
Judge William Leary III wrote a rare, post-trial letter to the jury that acquitted Yanez in the death of Philando Castile. Last month's verdict sparked days of protests and strong reactions from people in the community who continue to demand justice for Castile.
Leary wrote in part that "the criticism of the verdict some have expressed is likely due to a failure to understand what you were asked to do and that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake."
In his letter, Leary also said the criticism focused on reaction to dashcam video and on issues jurors were never asked to consider.
"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 wrote.
The judge detailed the law prosecutors had to prove in order to convict Yanez, including if the St. Anthony officer acted with gross negligence and recklessness when he fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016.
A 'fair interpretation of the evidence and the law'
Leary didn't give his opinion on the verdict, but he wrote that the jury's verdict "was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply."
To end the letter, Leary wrote he hopes the jury's work "will soon be understood for what you were asked to do and respected for what you did do" in order to protect the jury process "now and in the future."
Leary's letter, which you can read in full here, was dated June 23 – one week after the jury found Yanez not guilty. The Star Tribune says a judge will often talk to the jury after a trial ends (Leary did in this case), but it's not common for a judge to send a letter to jurors days later.
The paper spoke to a few local attorneys, who said the letter was a good move on the judge's part, especially because the Yanez case was so historic and followed so closely.
Yanez is believed to be the first Minnesota police officer charged with fatally shooting someone while on duty.