By Jojo Kofman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A preliminary hearing for two men accused of a murder in July of 2020 moved to its 10th day in San Francisco County Superior Court Tuesday—the victim of the homicide is the cousin of the husband of newly-appointed San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
The co-defendants in the case are two Black men, both 20, Sincere Pomar and Stevie Mitchell.
Pomar is represented by Deputy Public Defender Jessie Shay. Mitchell is represented by Defense Attorney Pamela Herzig, who has said Jenkins’ link to the case is prejudicial to her client.
While in office, former DA Chesa Boudin stopped charging gang enhancements because he claimed they’ve been disproportionally used in Black and brown communities, can add years to felony sentences, and don’t deter crime.
However, despite the lack of substantive gang charges filed in this case, in earlier days of the hearing SF Deputy District Attorney Aaron Laycook stated “the People will maintain through evidence that the defendants’ involvement in a gang motivated them to fire shots on July 5, 2020, killing our victim.”
Tuesday’s proceedings began with Deputy DDA Laycook bringing up Officer Bryan Zahn to testify. Zahn does investigative work surrounding criminal street gangs, specific to San Francisco.
DPD Shay objected to Officer Zahn being proffered as an expert in regard to criminal streets gangs, and outside attorney Herzig joined the objection, explaining, “I do not believe in his qualifications to testify as an expert in regard to the July 2020 events.”
But Judge Victor M. Hwang accepted Officer Zahn as an expert witness.
DDA Laycook asked Officer Zahn various questions in an attempt to draw a connection between the criminal street gang “Tray4” and the homicide which took place on July of 2020.
When DDA Laycook asked Officer Zahn to describe the role “respect” plays among gangs, Officer Zahn responded, “Everyone thinks they’re King Kong.”
Zahn elaborated, stressing, “A gang member taking out a rivalry gang member would lead one to have utmost respect. If you do a heinous act in a rival gang’s territory it’s a huge win for the reputation of one’s street gang.”
DDA Laycook then brought up the name of a different homicide victim murdered in April of 2020, that previously hadn’t been mentioned. He presented Officer Zahn with social media postings that were consistent with memorial-like photos of the homicide victim.
When looking at the caption of one of the photos, Officer Zahn stated, “The significance of this is that it’s someone who’s incarcerated who will search for retaliation when home.”
Defense Attorney Herzig quickly objected to Officer Zahn’s interpretation of the photo’s caption, explaining that it’s based on his opinion and isn’t proper expert witness testimony. Judge Hwang sustained Herzig’s objection, omitting that part of the testimony.
DDA Laycook then asked Officer Zahn if the relationship between various criminal streets gangs in San Francisco got worse or better following the homicide in April of 2020. Officer Zahn stated that the relationships got worse following the murder.
Defense attorney Herzig objected to the line of questioning, stating, “This calls for a great deal of speculation, and a great deal of opinion.”
She explained that Officer Zahn’s testimony “presumes he knows what individuals are in each gang, assumes he’s correct on what’s being reported, and whether these individuals are actually a member of these gangs.”
In DDA Laycook’s last question to Officer Zahn, he asked if the officer believed accused Mitchell held the DoubleRock gang accountable for the shooting that happened in April of 2020. Officer Zahn responded, “No, not that I can cite.”
Officer Zahn was excused as a witness. This marked the end of the evidentiary portion of the hearing, and the beginning of each counsel’s final arguments.
DDA Laycook presented a PowerPoint to the court which outlined the points of his final argument, stating, the victim “was shot and killed by people in a white Honda as shown in surveillance footage…that white Honda Accord is the key template we use to evaluate the rest of the evidence in this case,” adding, “We know that the vehicle is associated with the homicide.”
Next, DDA Laycook presented the court with a mock diagram of the various seats in a car, arguing “we know that Mitchell was on the right rear seat because there was a Gatorade bottle that showed strong support for Mitchell’s DNA.” DDA Laycook stated that Pomar was in the front seat of the suspect vehicle, on the passenger side.
DDA Laycook then explained that the murder vehicle stopped at two locations before the homicide. DDA Laycook gave one address in particular that the vehicle stopped at, claiming it was the house of Mitchell’s mother.
While DDA Laycook made the statement, Mitchell’s mother whispered in the audience of the courtroom, “That is not my address.”
Once DDA Laycook finished his final argument, it was Defense Attorney Herzig’s time to give her final arguments.
She started by describing a few things she said the prosecution had “just got wrong.” She was unable to finish the majority of her argument because court finished for the day.