COURT WATCH: Jury Acquits Unhoused Man Who Defended Himself in Street Attack – But Only after 507 Days in Jail When Trial Delayed

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

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In yet another case here in San Francisco County Superior Court, noted by the SF Public Defenders Office these past few months about people serving months and years in jail only to be acquitted at trial, Hasira Sutton was found not guilty by a jury Nov. 3—but only after spending 507 days in jail awaiting trial.

The SF PD, in a statement, said the “unhoused man…defended himself against repeated acts of aggression and threats by an inebriated pedestrian near Union Square in June 2022” and was acquitted of all felony charges and the jury hung on two misdemeanor counts. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed the final counts on Nov. 7.

“We thank the jury for evaluating the evidence and understanding that Mr. Sutton acted in self-defense in response to repeated acts of aggression by the pedestrian that night,” said Deputy Public Defender Alexa Horner, one of the PDs defending Sutton.

The PD Office said, “Although the prosecutor played a surveillance video clip to the jury that showed the encounter between Sutton and the pedestrian that led to Sutton’s arrest, the defense played more comprehensive footage that showed an encounter from earlier that evening.”

The public defenders said the “comprehensive footage from the night of June 14, 2022, shows the pedestrian and a group of friends leaving a bar and then yelling and threatening Sutton who was waiting to cross the street at the intersection of Post and Taylor.

“Sutton told them to leave him alone and walked away. The group continued to follow Sutton and threaten him while he repeatedly asked them to leave him alone,” and later, “the pedestrian returns and wakes (Sutton) up…saying that he wanted to fight. The man continued to move closer before Sutton hit him several times in quick succession in self-defense.”

The defense said the blood alcohol level of the pedestrian at the scene showed it was .327, which is more than four times the legal limit for driving.

According to the public defenders, “Sutton testified that he has been homeless for several years and has been the victim of violence dozens of times. Years prior, he had been a college football player, but was hospitalized after being attacked. The defense team called expert witnesses who affirmed that people who are unhoused and those who have been victims of violent crime often develop a heightened sense of danger, which helped explain the need to use self-defense against the aggressor.”

“Early media reports on this case were biased against our client and lacked important context, which is why it’s so important for our office to set the record straight in light of this acquittal,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. 

Raju added, “Jury trials provide the opportunity for San Franciscans to do the important work of scrutinizing the state’s evidence and reaching a just and lawful outcome, which they’ve done here for Mr. Sutton.”

The PD Office said the defense team, which included Horner, DPD Christopher Garcia, investigator Jill Schroeder, paralegals Sercan Ersoy and Chris Koubek, and social worker Angela Lagman, located Sutton’s family, and the team is now attempting to find housing options for Sutton.

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