Mark E. Merin filed the motion for his law office to defend Mr. Acuña. Several local news organizations such as Fox were there to cover the small event.
In a release sent out by a group lead by Rebecca Sandoval and Reverend Ashiya Odeye who have spearheaded the effort against the Gang Injunction, a motion filed by prominent Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark E. Merin argued that the civil action against the so-called “Broderick Boys” should allow defendants a right to court-appointed counsel. A similar injunction was earlier ruled unconstitutional.
“[Defendants desire] the appointment of counsel to challenge the constitutionality of the injunction…to contest its applicability to [defendants]…and to insure that due process is afforded to everyone”
Without representation, said Merin, the costs of the count-appointed representation would “pale” when compared to the “social costs of an entire community roiled by perceived railroading of vulnerable defendants unable to defend themselves.”
Mr. Jimenez stated at the press conference, that they believed that the civil rights of certain individuals had been violated by the police department, and that they are going into court on Monday to ask the judge to appoint counsel to them because they have the right to legal representation.
Attorney Mark J. Reichel said that the case should not be a civil one. “If you are facing jail time, it is not a civil case,” said Reichel.
According to the official motion that was filed, the fourteenth amendment requires appointment of counsel to indigent defendants when the individual faces loss of his physical liberty or personal liberties. This is exactly the situation that Mr. Acuña is in, and yet he has not been appointed counsel for his defense.
The motion further states that the complexity of the proceedings and the issues presented will likely lead to erroneous decision if counsel is not appointed.
Reverend Odeye spoke in defense of the defendant, stating
“he is essentially being charged for owning a red truck. He has never been accused of any gang activity before.”
The lawyers and activists present stated that they felt that the injunction was completely unnecessary for West Sacramento, and that it was really just a way to allow for institutionalized racism. Reverend Odeye went on to elaborate that the part of Sacramento that he lives in has much worse crime and gang activity than West Sacramento, but they don’t have a gang injunction. He therefore questioned why West Sacramento was in need of one.
Meanwhile the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office continues to assert what an appellate court previously ruled that the defendants in gang injunctions are not entitled to court-appointed, taxpayer-funded defense.
Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden told the Sacramento Bee:
“Certainly, they don’t like that opinion, but my expectation is that the court will follow the higher court rulings.”
West Sacramento Mayor in an previous interview with the Vanguard told us this was a difficult issue that requires balance.
“This is a challenging issue, particularly for folks who don’t live in West Sacramento, who for whom it’s just an abstract political philosophy question, for the folks on the street in the community, many of whom are already dealing with issues around poverty and immigration and the gang and its threat to their families is one more insult from a society that in many cases has left them behind.”
However he felt that they had been able to address a number of concerns from the original injunction this time around:
“This time around its very different and that’s because of concerns and issues that were raised after the first one was put in place, we conducted a lot of community workshops, listened a lot to civil libertarians, to public defenders, to folks in the neighborhood, to community activists and made some significant changes to it.”
The issue of legal representation remains troubling. Ordinarily people in civil court are not afforded court appointed attorneys. However, ordinarily civil penalties do include jail and when they do, people would be in fact afforded court appointed attorneys to defend them. This is a case whereby defendants face potential jail time if the injunction is imposed and they violate the injunction. Most of these individuals are not people with the resources to be able to hire their own attorneys.
He (they) certainly should have the right to challenge the accusation in a court of law and the District Attorney should have the burden of proving that they are indeed members of the Broderick Boys gang. If the evidence is as overwhelming as they claim, that should be an easy sell.
Unlike the Mayor of West Sacramento suggests, I do not see that as merely an abstract political philosophy question, I see it as an issue of paramount importance in our society. Because if they can deny constitutional rights to one class of people out of fear that they will harm others, who is to say they cannot deny rights to all of us. If you are convinced that gangs exist and are a threat in West Sacramento, and I am, then you will not be afraid to allow the due process of law to prove it.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting with the commentary and Simon Efrein covered the event