San Francisco, CA — A man who borrowed a gun for protection after he and his family experienced random violence in a San Francisco housing project was acquitted Thursday after a jury determined his actions were necessary.
Jurors deliberated five hours before finding Johnny Stone, 23, not guilty of one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon. The jury hung on a second misdemeanor charge, carrying a loaded weapon. A third charge, possession of nunchaku, was dismissed by the judge after finding there wasn’t sufficient evidence for that charge to go to jury.
Stone, of Reno, was arrested Sept. 9, 2009 while visiting family members in the Sunnydale public housing projects. Stone, who had never been arrested, had reason to be fearful in the high-crime area, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ariel Boyce-Smith. Stone had been robbed on a previous visit and his cousin had been shot in the ankle on the same block. After Stone arrived from Reno that day, he was startled by the sound of nearby gunshots.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., Stone’s family asked him to retrieve baby food and diapers from his parked car for his crying niece. A relative offered to let the fearful visitor borrow her gun for the short trip, Boyce-Smith said.
When Stone went outside, he was approached by police officers who were searching for juvenile robbery suspects. Police asked if they could conduct a weapons search and Stone cooperated, immediately telling police he was carrying the gun. After securing the gun from Stone’s sweatshirt pocket, he was arrested. A subsequent search of a nearby car police believed was Stone’s revealed nunchaku.
During the two-day trial, Stone testified about previous incidents at Sunnydale, including the gunshots he heard shortly before his arrest. Police confirmed that Sunnydale is a high crime area.
“The defense was one of necessity,” Boyce-Smith said. “It was clear Mr. Stone took the gun solely for protection. He was acting in an emergency and it was necessary for him to have the gun to protect himself from great bodily harm.”
Boyce-Smith said jurors took into account the frequent crime at Sunnydale and the low probability that had Stone called police, he would have been promptly provided with an armed escort to retrieve the baby food.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said jurors relied on common sense.
“Mr. Stone’s fears about being robbed or hurt were justified by his prior experiences in the neighborhood,” Adachi said. “When his baby niece needed to be fed shortly after gunfire rang out, he considered it an emergency and took the precautions he felt were necessary.”