The judge who presided over the trial of the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has taken the unusual step of writing a message of support—in which he quotes civil rights icon Malcolm X—to the jurors who found the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, not guilty of manslaughter.
Thanking the 12 men and women who served on the case for “the profound public service you provided to this country and the State of Minnesota,” Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary III claimed he wrote the message “to re-assure [jurors] that [they] faithfully fulfilled the difficult task [hey] were asked to undertake,” the Star Tribune reported.
Given the high profile of Yanez trial’s, and the outpouring of grief and anger over the jury’s verdict, Leary’s letter—and its message of assuagement—struck some observers as notably odd.
“It’s unusual to do a letter after the fact [of the verdict]” Minnesota defense attorney Joe Tamburino explained to the paper, though he said it was not inappropriate.
The letter was released days after the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension published dramatic footage taken from Yanez’s police cruiser, showing the officer firing seven shots into the Castile’s car.
“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 reportedly wrote.
“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,” he continued. “You were simply asked to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether a crime had been committed.”
Citing “a failure to understand what you were asked to do” as a motivating factor in angry, post-trial fallout, Leary wrote that he had “no doubt” the men and women of the jury had done what was asked of them. He then concluded his letter with a quote from, of all people, Malcolm X—who would likely have been apoplectic at the thought of being cited in a letter to bolster the spirits of a majority-white jury tha acquitted a cop for shooting a black man.
“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it,” Leary, quoting X, wrote. “I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
In a statement to ABC News, Leary declined to comment further on his unusual decision to write the jurors, saying “I appreciate your interest but I don’t believe any discussion would be of any additional value.”