It's not just San Francisco where fingers are being pointed in multiple directions in the ongoing debate about criminal justice reform, accountability, and the efficacy of the justice system to combat crime. In San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo and members of the city's police department are calling out a judge for releasing two homicide suspects on their own recognizance, without bail, pending trial.
27-year-old Efrain Xavier Anzures and 26-year-old Alfred Richard Castillo II have been implicated in the October 31 death of 27-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez, with Anzures facing a homicide charge and Castillo charged with being an accessory. On November 10, Judge Phillip Pennypacker released Anzures to house arrest, and released Castillo with an ankle monitor. Both were released without bail.
Our homicide detectives do an exceptional job. Suspects Anzures and Castillo were arrested for homicide 29. The DA filed charges on both.— San José Police Media Relations (@SJPD_PIO) December 1, 2021
They are no longer in jail. The criminal justice system believes they are fine out of custody without bail. pic.twitter.com/D6GmmdEEKN
The story blew up Tuesday following an NBC Bay Area report that seems to have been spurred by the police themselves — perhaps via the tweet above.
"This is the ultimate crime. This is murder," said San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata, speaking to the station. "Someone took it upon themselves to kill another individual."
And Mayor Liccardo joined in the chorus, reposting the NBC piece on Twitter and saying, "I appreciate the purpose of bail reform, but releasing a homicide suspect without bail is outrageous. The pendulum has swung too far, and it’s our neighborhoods that endure the most crime that suffer as a result."
But an attorney for the accused tells the Mercury News that this is all just a "temper tantrum" on the part of police who do not believe in no-cash bail or criminal justice reform.
"I am floored that this has become a story. The judge did exactly what the law says," says Anzures's attorney Renee Hessling. "Law enforcement can’t stand people not being thrown in jail and getting locked away every time they arrest someone. Mr. Anzures is still innocent, he hasn’t been convicted of a single crime."
Hessling explains that Anzures had no criminal record, and in the weeks since his release he has been abiding by the conditions of his release.
Further, Hessling says that they will be pursuing a self-defense argument — her client, she says, observed Gonzalez driving recklessly through his neighborhood, and he took actions to prevent Gonzalez from striking anyone on the street on an evening when kids were out trick-or-treating.
That argument could be a difficult one, however, given that Anzures and Castillo allegedly pursued Gonzalez for about a mile after he collided with Castillo's vehicle, before the shooting took place. Prosecutors are more likely to frame this as a road rage incident.
As KTVU explains, while it is rare for homicide suspects to be released, especially without bail, judges have discretion to grant pretrial release given various factors, including prior criminal records and the defendant's reputation in a community. Hessling says Anzures is a student who is working to support a family, and police "want every problem to be solved in one single way, which is put people in jail and throw away the key without taking into consideration any of the important factors about the individual."
The very public debate echoes stories in San Francisco in the last couple of years. As an effort is pending to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin, his office has been quick to point out that it is most often judges, and not prosecutors, who release suspects from custody. One recent case involved a man who, along with his brother, was jailed for three years on murder charges, only to be released on a technicality involving Miranda rights and a change in California law involving accessories to murder. That suspect, Daniel Cauich, was released in February 2019, arrested later in a series of burglaries, and was released again this past May with an ankle monitor. In June, Cauich allegedly stabbed a 94-year-old woman on the street in the Tenderloin.
Boudin says that his office had argued not to release Cauich in May, based on his previous record, but a judge granted his release again.
Photo: Getty Images