By Jojo Kofman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Judge Victor M. Hwang here in San Francisco County Superior Court Friday decided to proceed with a preliminary hearing, after suspending it Thursday when it was announced new SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins had family ties to the victim of the murder case.
However, the possibility of the SF District Attorney’s Office being unable to prosecute the case because of the conflict of interest still looms. The victim is the cousin of the new DA’s husband.
And Friday, defense attorney Pamela Herzig charged Jenkins posed a conflict of interest in the case.
Herzig said the new DA has a link to the victim, and what Herzig called her “very public” statements about the case and alleged killers.
Defense attorney Herzig also explained that Jenkins was supposed to be “walled off” from the case due to the conflict of interest, but at no point did Jenkins reach out to any counsel about the conflict.
Instead, defense attorney Herzig learned about the conflict which affected the fate of her clients through an interview by Jenkins.
Defense attorney Herzig stated “this leaves the distinct impression for anyone that’s looking (the accused) won’t receive a fair trial.” Herzig then said, “Jenkins will always be Laycook’s boss.” Aaron Laycook is the deputy district attorney on the case.
When the preliminary hearing started, the DA was Chesa Boudin. The preliminary hearing now has Jenkins as the DA, news Judge Hwang found out about during a lunch break. The co-defendants of the case are Sincere Polmar and Stevie Mitchell. The victim of the homicide is Jenkins’ husband’s cousin.
Defense attorney Herzig stated that on behalf of her defendant, Mitchell, she is inviting a recusal to request to bar the district attorney’s office from prosecuting the case. However, Herzig isn’t prepared to request the recusal just yet.
Deputy District Attorney Laycook wanted to resume with the evidence proceedings of the preliminary hearing. Laycook explained his reasoning, claiming that Jenkins has been walled off the case in the past, and will be walled off again.
During DDA Laycook’s speech he explained that the complaint initially filed against the co-defendants of the homicide case included gang charges. However, the DA’s office then amended the chargers prior to the accused’s arraignment, excluding the substantive gang charges.
Despite the lack of substantive gang charges, DDA Laycook stated that “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.”
While in office, Boudin stopped charging gang enhancements, explaining that gang enhancements have been disproportionally used on Black and Brown communities, can add years onto felony sentences, and don’t deter crime.
DDA Laycook, who previously worked under Boudin, was reassigned during Boudin’s staffing shakeup in his aim to bring diverse perspectives into the office.
DA Jenkins said in the past that she would like San Francisco prosecutors to regain the power to use gang enhancements, ask for cash bail, “strikes” from prior convictions, as well as to charge juveniles as adults.
The preliminary hearing moved ahead, with DDA Laycook bringing up a juvenile witness, a 15-year-old boy, who was assisted by a Spanish interpreter. The boy confirmed what he saw on July 8,2020.
The boy stated he saw a car arrive in the parking lot outside of Candlestick Park, and one person got out of the car and went to look for something in the bushes, saying, “It’s there, there it is.”
The boy testified the person went back to his car to grab a jacket, and then back to near the bushes to pick up a firearm. He then saw the person use the jacket to wrap the firearm and rush back to the car. The boy stated that the car left quickly.
The juvenile witness told police July 8, 2020, about what he witnessed.
During defense attorney Herzig’s cross-examination it became clear that, while the boy told the officer how many doors the suspect vehicle had, he wasn’t sure of the number he gave. The boy had originally stated the vehicle had two doors, and later said four doors. The juvenile witness admitted to the court that he didn’t tell the officer that he wasn’t sure of the number he had given.
Defense attorney Herzig then described to the juvenile witness that when the officer asked him which door the suspect got into, the boy stated the suspect went into the front seat.
Herzig said, “You didn’t say, I’m not sure, there wasn’t a backseat?” The juvenile witness responded by explaining his memory was better on July 8, 2020, in comparison to now.
As court broke for the day, Mitchell’s brother shouted out “love you brother” as he exited the courtroom.