Amid public backlash following the Yanez trial, Judge William H. Leary wrote a letter to the jurors expressing his appreciation for their public service. The trial in question received an enormous amount of public attention, putting immense pressure on the jurors, who were required by law to make their decision based on evidence and facts rather than emotions or public opinion. After clearing Yanez of manslaughter charges, they received an enormous amount of criticism. In an effort to thank the jury and provide reassurance after seeing their commitment to the state’s justice system, Judge Leary did what few others have done and penned the jurors a letter.
The Jury Acquitted The Defendant
The trial in question sought to determine whether or not Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez was guilty of second-degree manslaughter and two accounts of reckless discharge of a firearm. Yanez’s actions resulted in the death of Philando Castile at a traffic stop on July 6 of last year after he fired a gun at Castile, shooting him 7 times. The case was highly controversial and well-known, especially because Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the vehicle during the stop, shared footage of the events following the incident on Facebook. After 5 days of deliberation, the 12 jurors acquitted Yanez.
The jury was composed of 5 women and 7 men, 2 of which were people of color. After the jury’s statement was released, a rally took place at the State Capitol where protesters took a stand against authorities to show their disapproval of the court decision. In his letter to the jurors, Judge Leary wrote that their decision “was fully supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the law you were obligated to apply.” While Judge Leary insisted he would not express his personal feelings in regards to the trial, he made it clear that he thought the jury interpreted the evidence fairly.
Our own attorney, Joe Tamburino, was asked to comment on the Judge’s letter, which many believed could be considered inappropriate. Tamburino said, “I say hats off to [Judge Leary] for doing this, because the jury received an inordinate amount of criticism. The issue was whether the state proved its case, not greater social issues.”
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