By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA –Damien Alvarez, 81, was found not guilty by a jury of attempted murder and other charges he was charged with after he and his ex-wife fought over a knife she was trying to stab him with, said the San Francisco Public Defenders Office Monday.
In a press statement, Deputy Public Defender Martina Avalos said police “failed to investigate the Mr. Alvarez’s injuries, and that Mr. Alvarez had acted in reasonable self-defense against his live-in ex-wife whom the jury did not find credible due to multiple untruthful statements she made under oath.
“While this was a distressing incident for both parties, it is clear that Mr. Alvarez was not the aggressor in this situation. He and his family have long suffered various forms of physical, emotional and financial abuse at the hands of his ex-wife,” said Avalos, who warned any attempt to retry the case “would be futile and only exacerbate the conflict between the parties.”
She added, “Repeated efforts to obtain a conviction in this case would have a traumatic impact on Mr. Alvarez who would yet again face serious consequences despite being found credible by this jury.”
The jury reportedly fought through losing three of its jurors, and deliberated for three days before returning a verdict of not guilty on attempted murder, not guilty on attempted manslaughter, and hung 7-5 in favor of innocence on the three assault charges.
“(I)t’s imperative for the SF Superior Court to make more courtrooms available for trials, so that our zealous defense teams can help people like Mr. Alvarez and his family fight back against these unfounded charges,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.
Raju, who sued SF Superior Court in September to “address the backlog of hundreds of cases that are past their trial deadline,” added, “Jury trials are essentially the only opportunity to present a fuller picture of a situation than what’s written in a police report.”
The PD Office said Alvarez has no criminal convictions, is a retired shopkeeper and longtime resident of the Mission District with two grown daughters from a previous marriage, who both testified on his behalf.
“One of his daughters testified that when she was a teenager, her father’s ex-wife had slashed her face with a key, leaving a permanent scar,” said the defense, which called other character witnesses from the community who “testified not only to Mr. Alvarez’s good nature, but also that they had witnessed his ex-wife’s behavior toward him become increasingly aggressive and occasionally violent,”
The PD said Alvarez’s ex-wife last June “shocked him by packing up all of his belongings and telling him he had to move out. Mr. Alvarez testified that she was being ‘verbally violent’ toward him to the point that he retreated to his bedroom.
“When he came back into the living room, he saw that she had placed a large kitchen knife on the table next to her, so he tried to take it away for fear that she might attack him with it, which is when the struggle ensued.”
The PD Office said police arrived, saw both people with blood on them, and then arrested Alvarez, “did not interview any neighbors nor did they order any forensic experts to collect blood samples from the apartment to see if some of the blood was his.”
Alvarez was later charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, assault likely to cause great bodily injury, battery on a domestic partner and criminal threats.
The defense argued the “prosecution relied solely on the statements and testimony of the ex-wife, who made statements on the witness stand that were evasive and false—including multiple different accounts of what had happened the night of June 3…claiming that she had never been in an argument with Mr. Alvarez nor anyone in his family…(and) denied that she was actively suing him for $10 million…to force Mr. Alvarez to sell the home he built and bought for his daughters before his marriage.”