By The Vanguard
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Anna Frammolino wrote why she, and other jurors, voted to acquit and saw “the problems on our streets are even more nuanced and complex than I realized.”
Frammolino stressed she wasn’t an “activist,” but “after learning about the specific requirements of the law, reviewing the judge’s detailed instructions and weighing all of the evidence, I voted to acquit. So did 10 out of my 12 fellow jurors.”
The case involved a man charged with dealing fentanyl, and Frammolino wrote, “I didn’t realize that people selling drugs on our streets are sometimes victims of human trafficking or how our state anti-human trafficking laws can impact drug cases.
“I believe the evidence showed that the accused, who I’ll call ‘Esteban’ to protect his identity, was coerced into selling drugs against his will. And I believe his family was threatened with serious violence,” Frammolino added in the Chronicle.
The juror added, “Like everyone I know in San Francisco, I’m frustrated by the situation with drugs and homelessness in our city. And like many others here, my family and I have been thinking of moving out of town because of how challenging things have gotten. So I can see why people might be surprised about the decision most of us jurors reached.”
Frammolino said, “I was struck by how technical, almost surgical, the process was. We were not allowed to consider broader social issues or our personal feelings about the case. Our job was only to apply the law per the judge’s specific instructions.
“I learned that Esteban first migrated to the U.S. several years ago from Honduras and initially lived outside of California, where he struggled to earn a living. He testified he was tricked into coming to the Bay Area by someone he owed money to and trusted under the false promise of working in construction.”
Frammolino added, “The person who tricked Esteban — his trafficker — isolated him from the only family he had in the U.S., so he was alone and vulnerable in the Bay Area. The trafficker said that Esteban ‘owned him now”’ and that Esteban must sell drugs or there would be consequences for him and his family.
“During the trial, a police officer testified that when Esteban was first arrested, they found he was living in squalid conditions. We also heard from a human rights and law enforcement expert who has extensively studied gangs in Central America. He testified to conditions in Honduras and the extreme level of violence that certain criminal organizations have used to threaten Honduran residents and families, including people being put in vats of oil and burned.”
Frammolino concluded, “At the end of the trial and deliberations, I found it more likely than not that Esteban’s personal liberties were violated, he was coerced into selling drugs and had a reasonable fear of substantial harm to his family.”
But, the Chronicle guest contributor added, “Do I believe all drug dealers are victims of human trafficking? No. Do I think people who sell drugs should face consequences? Yes. Do I think that San Francisco needs to improve the state of our city and specifically address drug use, including fentanyl, and homelessness? Yes.”
And, the juror argued that, “I am not an advocate or an activist. My life working in corporate America couldn’t be more different than Esteban’s. And I don’t pretend to know what the solutions are to the complex problems we are facing as a society.
“But I have no doubt that the 10 of us who found Esteban was a victim of human trafficking delivered the right verdict based…Esteban was referred to an organization that screens for and works exclusively with trafficking survivors. I hope that he will now have the opportunity to rebuild his life and separate himself from the coercion and violence that have gotten him here,” said Frammolino in the Chronicle.