COURT WATCH: Emotions Spark in Drug Case Closing Arguments

San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by David M. Greenwald

By Yash Mishra

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Mixed emotions erupted between the prosecution and the defense in their closing arguments in San Francisco Superior Court this past week in a jury trial overseen by Judge Harry M. Dorfman.

The jury later returned with a guilty verdict, and the accused’s sentencing is set for July 18.

But, the prosecution and defense earlier presented sometimes-heated closing arguments in a case where a man is charged two counts for possession or sale of a controlled substance, of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Deputy District Attorney Annie Curtis-Sanchez said the accused satisfied all the elements of Counts 1 and 2. With a firm tone and extensive eye contact, she assured the jury to not decide if the accused is a good person or not but to apply the laws to the evidence.

She used the accused’s testimony that the accused knew the fentanyl was in his backpack and intended to possess a controlled substance. With the use of her body language, the DDA charged the accused assisted the drug dealer and stood with the backpack for an hour.

To establish a connection with the jury, the prosecutor raised her voice and focused on the extensive drug history of the accused.

Wrapping up her closing arguments, the DDA incessantly tapped the table and pointed at the accused. While doing this, she advised the jury to make a wise decision and carefully connect the evidence to the elements.

Representing the accused, Deputy Public Defender Semuteh Freeman fiercely responded to Sanchez’s closing arguments by showing the accused as a simple human being. With her hands placed on her client’s shoulders, the DPD emphasizes that her client is not guilty.

After doing this, DPD Freeman walked over to the jury and thoroughly explained the innocence of her client, stating her client did not know what was in the backpack and did not have control over it.

The DPD argued her client was exploited and directed them to an officer’s testimony regarding exploitation as the main cause of drug sales. Freeman insisted her client is forced to engage in drug operations and is coerced to work for drug dealers.

As the DPD continued, the courtroom was very silent. One could feel the tensions rise on the prosecution side. In addition, the revealing information about the domineering nature of exploitation appears to be eye-opening to the jury and effectively catches their attention.

Freeman strongly argued her client has no option but to engage in drug operations to survive. Using hand gestures and body movements, she vividly describes how her client did not look at the drug dealer and stayed in a “freeze-like position.”

As Freeman finished her closing arguments, she took several pauses and encouraged the jury to carefully understand the totality of this case and she encouraged a not guilty verdict.

Prosecutor Sanchez rebutted, coming a little closer to the jury and diverting the jurors’ attention from Freeman. With a booming voice, she reiterated the accused knew that there were drugs in the backpack and stood with them for an hour. She explained all the elements again and encouraged the jury to apply the law to the evidence provided.

In a press release from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, DA Brooke Jenkins stated, “The jury’s verdict holds (the suspect) accountable and sends a strong message that San Franciscans are fed up and will no longer tolerate open-air drug markets.”

“My office will aggressively prosecute drug dealers and continue to fight to restore safety to entire neighborhoods that have been held hostage by illegal drug dealing and the violence that it brings for far too long,” continued Jenkins. 

About The Author

Yash Mishra is a senior at California State University, Fullerton where he studies Criminal Justice. He is very passionate about the burning issues in the criminal justice system. After completing his undergraduate studies, he plans to pursue a career in investigations.

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