SF Public Defender’s Office to File Motion for a New Trial, Alleging Juror Tampering by SF Chronicle Reporter

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

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Public Defender’s office plans to file a motion for a new trial after learning that a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle reached out to at least seven jurors during a trial to request interviews following a verdict.

The office believes that the actions “tainted the jury” and called it, “incredibly improper.”

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) they noted, “Our client in this case was coerced to sell drugs under threat of serious harm to himself and his family. The CA Legislature created the laws that allow the defense to present such evidence in recognition of just these kinds of cases of exploitation and coercion.”

The office added, “Labor trafficking is real and is unfortunately poorly understood. Learn more:”

The story was originally broken by 48Hills.

The SF Public Defender’s office confirmed the accuracy of the report to the Vanguard.  The reporter in question, Gabrielle Lurie, is normally a photojournalist.

“When we came back from a lunch break, we were told that [a Chronincle reporter] was talking to a juror,” Deputy Public Defender Kelly Wells told Tim Redmond of 48Hills. “It turns out she had talked to seven others. The judge, Simon Frankel, said to them that it’s highly inappropriate to talk to jurors.”

This was brought to the attention of the judge, who asked the jurors if this incident would taint their ability to consider the facts of the case—and they all said no, according to the report.

The PD’s office issued a statement: “We were shocked at the reporter’s callousness and audacious behavior, both in disrupting the proceedings themselves and in contacting sitting jurors on an open case. Student journalists cutting their teeth at their college papers know better than that, and these are two highly experienced reporters at a major paper.”

They argued, “This was nothing short of a deliberate effort to let the jurors know that the media was watching them, and to get the story they wanted by literally influencing the outcome of the case.”

48 Hills reached out to reporter Megan Cassidy, the lead reporter, but she deferred to her editors and reportedly never reached back out to Redmond.

Redmond noted that the initial report by the Chronicle made no mention of the juror issue.

However, after the PD’s office sent them a statement, they updated it to note, “Public defender Eden Schwartz criticized a Chronicle journalist for asking some of the jurors during a lunch break if they would be interested in being interviewed about the case after the trial. After the lunch break, the judge polled the jurors and asked them if having talked to the journalist would interfere with their ability to render a verdict and they all said no.”

The trial then proceeded and the jurors later “reached the unanimous verdict.”

The Vanguard has requested additional comment from the PD’s office and will update this story.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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