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Monday, August 1, 2011

George Gascón's Losing Streak

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Well, he never actually practiced law before being DA
  • Well, he never actually practiced law before being DA

Update: DA's Office responds. Read after the jump.

Original story: Since George Gascón took over as District Attorney earlier this year, more defendants have walked free.

As we've noted before, Gascón wasn't appointed DA for his lawyerin' skills.

According to the Public Defender's Office, 63 percent of all misdemeanor trials have ended in acquittals or a hung jury between January and June 2011. In 2010, the Public Defender's Office had won only 43 percent of its misdemeanor cases.

"I don't think the DA is doing a good job of evaluating the strengths of their case before going to trial," says Elizabeth Hilton, managing attorney for the misdemeanor unit with the Public Defender's Office.

Even San Francisco's liberal jurors have been somewhat vexed at the seemingly frivolous cases that have gone to trial. For instance, prosecutors pushed one case to trial involving a man who was accused of smashing a Muni window. After a brief trial, he was found innocent; jurors later told attorneys that they felt this case was a waste of their time.

SF Weekly contacted the DA's office, and is awaiting comment.

Hilton says plea bargains have become more onerous since Gascón appointed Rema Breall to head the misdemeanor unit. Aside from being a complete waste of time, it's also been a waste of money, Hilton tells us.

According to the Public Defender's Office, the average misdemeanor trial costs taxpayers $30,000. Between January and June, the DA tried 65 misdemeanor cases -- but won only 24 of those.

Perhaps Gascón will be better at winning elections than he is at winning trials.

Update 4:20 p.m.: The DA's Office issued the following comment:

"San Francisco residents deserve liveable communities and safe streets and that means having a DA's Office that takes seriously the prosecution of vandalism, drunk driving, gun possession and other misdemeanor offenses," says Erica Derryck, spokeswoman with the DA's Office. "We will continue to charge, and when necessary, take these cases to trial for the sake of our collective public safety and the victims who are entitled to justice."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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