By Jojo Kofman
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A preliminary hearing Thursday in San Francisco County Superior Court was suspended abruptly when Judge Victor M. Hwang said the court received news during the lunch break that former SF prosecutor Brooke Jenkins had been appointed SF district attorney, replacing recalled DA Chesa Boudin.
The preliminary hearing involves a homicide that occurred on July 5, 2020—the victim was the cousin of the new DA’s husband.
Apparently concerned about undue prejudice, Judge Hwang informed the courtroom he was suspending proceedings for the day, and, looking at the accused, added, “I want to make sure there’s no influence from the DA on your case.” He reiterated to the accused that his decision to suspend court was “so we can safeguard your rights.”
The two accused are young Black men. According to the mother of one of the accused, both boys have been held in custody for more than a year prior to any hearing.
In an interview, the accused’s mother stated that “this is a political case,” explaining that while usually homicide cases only have three homicide detectives, this case has 14 homicide detectives stacked onto it. The accused’s mom made it clear she believed Jenkins had a connection to this.
Jenkins, a former homicide prosecutor who worked under Boudin, quit and had been running for the position of district attorney. Jenkins was motivated to join the recall effort because, she said, Boudin produced harmful outcomes for victims and their families.
Jenkins is driven by the fact that she is one of these families. She stated the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of this homicide case was ineffective while Chesa was district attorney.
Throughout the preliminary hearing, the deputy district attorney brought up multiple police officers to identify their roles on the evening of the crime, identify items and locations in photos and videos, admit photos and videos into evidence, identify bullet casings, and more.
One officer on the stand quickly recited the license plate associated with the suspect vehicle on the night of July 5, 2020. The officer also stated that the night he was called in for a vehicle involved in a homicide, he saw shopping bags in the rear part of the vehicle.
When defense attorney Pamela Herzig cross-examined the officer, she asked if he had any other memories of the bags, including the type of shopping bags he saw. The officer stated that he couldn’t remember—Herzig noted the officer could memorize a license plate but lacked any memory of the shopping bags.
Herzig further clarified the question, asking if the officer had a memory of paper bags, plastic bags, tote bags, or other types. The officer admitted he had no recall but claimed that his report was accurate.
Judge Hwang stepped in, asking the officer, “Do you remember something independently about the shopping bags, or are you relying on your report?” The officer repeated that he couldn’t recall.
During Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, defense attorneys said the man who claimed to call 911 the evening of the crime had heard gunshots, but had not seen the shooting.
When another police officer was asked about details regarding his involvement the evening of the crime, he stated he couldn’t recall the amount of times he went to the location of the crime scene.
Officer Brett Grennell was a different witness called to the stand, describing specific damages on the suspect vehicle and he confirmed that the car wasn’t in contact with anything consistent with the damage.
When Officer Grennell was asked if the front driver’s window was partly open, he stated he couldn’t recall. Officer Grennell was then shown photos of the partially opened window.
When Officer Robert Kellogg was called to the stand and couldn’t remember specific information about the case, the DDA lightly chuckled and said, “that’s all right…it was two years ago.”
The mother of one of the accused noted each police officer testifying in this case has a lawyer, suggesting that isn’t something that’s normally seen.
Just as the court wrapped up for lunch break, one of the accused and his brother in the general seating area waved at each other, as he sat with the rest of the accused’s family.
During the lunch break, news broke that Jenkins had been appointed District Attorney of San Francisco. The judge repeated the news to the court, halting the rest of the court’s proceedings due to Jenkins’s political connection to the case.
One of the accused’s moms said, even before Jenkins was appointed DA, that Jenkins had influenced the case. The mother said now that Jenkins is district attorney, “I’m worried my son is gonna get all wrapped up in this.”
After delivering news of the DA appointment, Judge Hwang stated he’s sure this is news the accused will want to speak to their attorneys about. However, the sheriff did not allow criminal defense attorney Herzig to speak to the accused.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last until next week.