The San Francisco DA's Office is calling it "disappointing" that a judge would choose to air grievances with prosecutors in open court, but this judge in particular says he's done with what he calls the poor management of the DA's Office as a whole.
It's primarily just a tiff between a judge and the prosecutor's office over an apparent paperwork flub. But because it's derailed a case that might have been won, and because this apparently is not the first time this has happened of late, Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan lashed out at District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his staff at a time when Boudin could least use any more criticism.
The Examiner obtained court transcripts from Tuesday (and so did the Chronicle somehow?), from a hearing in a 2019 gun case involving defendant Kenan Shackelford. (In August 2019, Shackelford and an accomplice, both from Vallejo, were allegedly found in possession of a loaded .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol and four loaded, 30-round high-capacity magazines during a traffic stop in the Tenderloin, according to police.) Shackelford's public defender, Martina Avalos, moved to have Judge Chan dismiss the case because the DA's office apparently for over a year failed to share "hundreds of pages of DNA evidence" that Avalos said could help exonerate her client.
"I cannot express in any more certain terms my disapproval of the manner in which the Office of the District Attorney is being managed," Judge Chan said, per the transcript. "Not to make light of the situation, but you can’t run an airline this way."
He went on to say, "I hope that people in the District Attorney’s Office will shift their focus from some of the bigger issues and concern themselves with the unglamorous yet necessary work of public prosecution. It’s time to really take care of business at home instead of thinking about the national or state stage."
Chan seemed to be referring to Boudin's stated mission to help reform the criminal justice system.
Chan has since apologized, according to Boudin spokesperson Rachel Marshall, both "for his statements" and for "how they’ve been interpreted and [he] regrets that that others have used this in furtherance of their own political goals."
In a statement to Examiner, Marshall says, "It’s disappointing that the judge in this case decided to air his grievances in open court rather than through the existing communication channels." And Marshall says that the evidence in question would not have helped acquit Shackelford — and the office had "inadvertently" failed to share the evidence. But, Marshall adds, "Nonetheless late discovery is unacceptable to us, and we are working to make sure it never happens again in this or any other case." Marshall said there would be new, mandatory training for all its prosecutors on discovery rules.
The DA's Office dropped the case against Shackelford voluntarily, but they said they would be refiling it.
Avalos tells the Examiner that she wasn't sure if high turnover at the DA's office was to blame for the lack of discovery evidence-sharing, or if it was just "a weird backlog" created by the pandemic in which cases are now being rushed to trial.
Since neither the Examiner nor the Chronicle were likely in court Tuesday and these transcripts aren't always easily obtained, it makes one wonder whether this story was not "placed," as it were, by a supporter of the campaign to recall Boudin as top prosecutor. In any event, it's not great for Boudin! But we still don't know for sure whether a recall election is actually going to happen.
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