New ‘War on Drugs’ or Accountability? Drug Possession Cases Continue under New SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins

By Stewart Lucas

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Deputy District Attorney Dennis Chow brought felony drug possession charges against Erlin Hernandez Friday in front of San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Diane Northway—but Deputy Public Defender Eden Schwartz argued the court should release Hernandez before his trial with no bail conditions.

DDA Chow said little throughout the hearing, and Judge Northway asked PD Schwartz, “What would be the difference?” between the court releasing Hernandez subject to the condition that he report to SF Assertive Case Management three times a week and not doing the check-ins.

PD Schwartz argued Hernandez worked full-time in Oakland and would have trouble getting to San Francisco three times per week. 

A Public Safety Assessment automatically created in criminal cases recommended Judge Northway release Hernandez with minimal bail conditions, but the judge ignored the recommendation, ordering Hernandez check in over the phone three times per week while working, and if he loses his job, check in twice weekly in San Francisco.

Northway did not explain her ruling further.

DDA Chow works under the new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. who said at her appointment speech in early July, “Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe,” adding she plans to “restore accountability and consequences to the criminal justice system.” though still committed to “advancing smart reforms responsibly.”

Critics argue that Jenkins’ “consequences” approach echoes more the efforts of the Reagan Administration when it declared a “War on Drugs” that resulted in mass incarceration for people of color.

For Hernandez, however, the dispute remains irrelevant. He showed up to court in all orange and with a Spanish-speaking interpreter, and he left with a looming criminal trial.

About The Author

Stewart is a Second Year Law student at UC Hastings. He is an aspiring trial lawyer with a fierce passion for public interest. He currently plans to get more experience in court, watching the proceedings that reflect the state of the country.

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