By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – It was a bombshell story, Heather Knight, one of the most recognized reporters in San Francisco today ran the story for Sunday Morning’s Chronicle, “Why a progressive prosecutor just left D.A. Chesa Boudin’s office and joined the recall effort.”
The story features Brooke Jenkins and argues, “Sitting on a bench in Golden Gate Park on a recent afternoon, Brooke Jenkins made clear the city’s raging debate over crime and how District Attorney Chesa Boudin responds to it is more complicated than left versus right.”
Jenkins, a former prosecutor, Knight reports, left the office on October 15. “She’s now one of about 50 attorneys — roughly a third of the office — to leave since January 2020, when Boudin took charge,” Knight continues.
Knight adds, “Jenkins’ decision to speak out about what she views as chaotic management, high turnover and ideologically driven decisions at the D.A.’s office sets her apart in the normally tight-lipped criminal justice community. And so does her new role: volunteering for the campaign to recall her former boss.”
Heather Knight is a formidable figure and is one of a number of reporters in San Francisco, whose coverage has galvanized opposition to the current DA in San Francisco. But there is another side to the story of Brooke Jenkins—and it’s not progressive prosecution but rather prosecutorial misconduct.
When the Vanguard opened its San Francisco Court Watch in 2019, the first trial it covered was the Carter-Bibbs trial. The Vanguard covered the trial from start to finish and the entire thing was a travesty of justice as it became very clear that no crime had occurred and that Mr. Carter-Bibbs was innocent of the horrendous charge that he molested his girlfriend’s young daughter.
What was worse was that the prosecutor, with the victim’s advocate and a DA investigator, surrounded the little girl in the hallway, and attempted to coach her testimony that was faltering on the stand. They got caught on video doing this. That prosecutor was Brooke Jenkins.
“How many more people does (the girl) have to tell?” Deputy DA Brooke Jenkins asked as she opened her nearly three-hour initial closing argument. “What does it take to believe her?”
But they had a problem. Carter-Bibbs had no criminal history. Investigators found nothing incriminating on his phone. There were no physical injuries or DNA on the little girl.
Moreover, it was not clear that Carter-Bibbs ever had access to the little girl alone.
Watching the trial it became clear to the Vanguard Court Watch team that it was more likely that the little girl was a pawn in a custody battle between the maternal grandmother and the mother and was likely manipulated.
While a reasonable person can debate whether the case should have been tried in the first place, it is hard to defend the actions of the prosecutor in this case.
The most dramatic moment of the trial came when the defense called a public defender investigator to the stand.
The young girl was supposed to testify on the opening day of the trial, but twice refused. The investigator testified that he saw a conversation between five individuals—the child, Deputy DA Brooke Jenkins, an inspector, a victim’s advocate and one other individual.
The investigator testified, “I observed Jenkins say, ‘Say that – that’s what you need to say.’”
He testified it caught his attention because it was very unorthodox and seemed to be very important. He had not been paying particular attention before that.
He then pulled out his iPhone and recorded a few minutes of audio. The audio that came out was very distorted and difficult to hear. However, the public defender investigator managed to produce a transcript that was provided to the jury while they listened to the audio from the video recording.
Under cross-examination from Ms. Jenkins, the investigator said that he had been observing various courtrooms and had overheard interns in the public defender’s office indicate that many were going to watch the trial and he felt like it sounded interesting.
Having heard this in court, the implication was very clear—the DA, and a group of four adults overall, were pressuring the young girl to testify and coaching her on what to say.
In the end, the judge did nothing about the alleged prosecutorial misconduct, the investigator who recorded this was investigated by DA Investigators at the time, but ultimately Carter-Bibbs was acquitted of the charges by the jury.
For years prior to his death, Public Defender Jeff Adachi had asked the Vanguard and its team to come to San Francisco and report on what was happening in its courts. Unfortunately, it took his untimely death in 2019 to make that a reality.
The Carter-Bibbs case stands out because it was our first trial that we covered, but what we saw in 2019 was a pattern of both prosecutorial and police misconduct that stunned many of us—Carter-Bibbs was merely the first and perhaps most egregious example.