The judge in the trial of SFPD Officer Terrance Stangel, a trial which ended Monday in a near complete acquittal, sounded less than patient with the District Attorney's Office on Tuesday when a request was made for a new court date.
The jury acquitted Stangel on Monday, after four days of deliberations, of three of the four counts against him: battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. The jury deadlocked 9-3 on the charge of assault under the color of authority — with three jurors voting to convict on that charge. Initially, there was also at least one holdout juror who wanted to convict on the third charge as well, but that juror relented on Monday following a note being passed to the judge by the jury foreperson, after which jurors were sent to deliberate further and quickly came back with verdicts on three counts.
Clearly there was plenty of sympathy on the jury for the police, and the defense clearly cast doubt on the prosecution's narrative that the beating victim, Dacari Spiers, was entirely innocent in resisting arrest — or entirely innocent of claims made by witnesses who called police to the scene that he was abusing his girlfriend, claims that the girlfriend denied under oath. During closing arguments, Assistant DA Rebecca Young tried to draw a distinction spelled out in the code for cops' use of force, saying, that Spiers may have been resisting, but he was not "assaultive" when doing so — and Young lamented following the verdicts Monday that "there was abundant evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of an assault by excessive force once Dacari Spiers was on the ground."
The verdicts were a blow for District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his office, especially coming three months before Boudin is facing a recall election.
But as Mission Local reports from the court today, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teresa M. Caffese has clearly had enough of this case, and doesn't see any point in pursuing the fourth charge in a new trial.
When the DA's office voiced a request for a new hearing date, at which point they may decide to pursue a second trial, Judge Caffese reportedly said, "Don’t you think it’s time to move forward?"
Also, per Mission Local, an angry sounding Caffese said, "It would be appropriate for the people to seriously consider whether it’s to anyone’s benefit... But if that’s what the state, the government wants, then that’s what we’ll do."
Lead District Attorney prosecutor Hans Moore was in court Tuesday, and apparently said the DA's office wants more time to "evaluate" how to proceed.
And when a court secretary offered a court date in 60 days, Caffese reportedly snapped again, and asked to set the date for tomorrow — at which point the DA's office seems likely to not have reached a decision, but who knows!?
This trial was watched closely around the country, as it was happening in a liberal-leaning city like San Francisco amid the country's ongoing reckoning over police brutality — particularly against Black male suspects. But perhaps the Spiers case was not as cut-and-dry as the prosecution hoped, even though Spiers was never charged with any crime.
The case stoked the flames of the ongoing rift between SF cops and the DA's office, and at least one potential hopeful for the DA's job, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, also leapt on to Spiers' previous record of domestic incidents to call out the DA's office herself. As the Board of Supervisors was set to take a final vote on a $700,000 civil settlement with Spiers, Stefani caused much drama coming out of a closed session, saying, "We have a DA who was saying, ‘No evidence of domestic violence! None! There is no evidence of domestic violence!’ There is evidence of domestic violence here. Tons of it." And, Stefani added, regarding the claim dismissed by the DA's office from a witness who said she saw Spiers' hands on the neck of his girlfriend, "This is a person who has been arrested for DV [domestic violence] before, who has done the same thing, put his hands around the neck of a woman. That evidence is admissible."
Well, it wasn't admitted in the case, but apparently it wasn't needed.
With a jury hung 9-3 in favor of the defense on one out of three counts, is it wise to keep trying this case? We'll see what Boudin decides.