By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A man incarcerated in a county jail for 331 days was found not guilty of a felony assault charge by a jury here in San Francisco County Superior Court this week—his legal counsel complained he never should have been in jail for nearly a year, blaming the courts for an injustice.
The jury found Isaac Tuialuuluu “was acting in self-defense during a family dispute in March 2021,” according to a statement by the SF Public Defender’s Office.
The PD emphasized “Mr. Tuialuuluu spent a total of 331 days in SF County Jail…a trial courtroom was not made available until February 2022, nearly eight months past the original trial deadline.”
Deputy Public Defender Scott Grant, who led the defense team, said, “We are relieved and grateful that the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, but we are also dismayed that it took this long for this case to go to trial while Mr. Tuialuuluu suffered the indecency of pandemic conditions in SF County Jail.”
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju has “taken legal action to compel SF Superior Court to follow state law and prioritize criminal trials for people in custody, hundreds of whom have seen the statutory deadlines for their trials pass,” according to the PD office.
Raju and taxpayers, including mothers of incarcerated adults, filed a petition in the California Court of Appeal seeking “relief for the growing number of people whose speedy trial rights have been violated.”
“I implore the Court to follow the example of other counties to find ways to make more courtroom space available for criminal jury trials and end the injustice that hundreds of legally innocent people are having to endure due to the growing trial backlog,” said Mr. Raju.
“I applaud our skilled and dedicated Public Defender team who helped secure the acquittal of Mr. Tuialuuluu. Other community members who are trapped in jail, like Mr. Tuialuuluu was, have a right to have their cases tried,” he added.
Raju said there were, as of this January, about 250 people—30 percent of the SF County Jail population—whose trial deadlines had passed.
“The jail remains under pandemic conditions, subjecting people to 23-hour lockdowns, no exposure to sunlight, and no in-person family visits,” according to the PD office.