Year End Report: Public Defenders Win 48 Percent of Jury Trials

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San Francisco, CA— People facing jury trial in San Francisco last year avoided conviction nearly half the time if represented by a public defender, according to the 2010 Public Defender’s Annual Report and 2011 Calendar, released this week.

The document may be viewed by logging on to:  http://sfpublicdefender.org/media/2011/01/annual-report-2010/

Combined misdemeanor and felony trial statistics for 2010 reveal that juries returned not guilty verdicts 36 percent of the time. Another 12 percent of trials resulted in hung juries, and 22 percent resulted in mixed verdicts. Juries found public defender clients guilty of all charges in only 30 percent of trials. Public defenders tried 168 total cases in 2010.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi noted that the acquittal rate rose for the third straight year, despite an extraordinarily busy time for the office. A series of scandals involving the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab and police misconduct disclosures necessitated the review of thousands of cases by public defenders during 2010.

“Despite the additional duties that came with ensuring the integrity of the evidence, we have continued to do our very best to provide 25,000 San Franciscans with the legal representation guaranteed by the Constitution,” Adachi said.

The Public Defender’s office has published its annual report each year since 2003.  This year’s calendar features emotionally stirring portraits and true-life accounts of clients, staff, courtroom victories and innovative programs. Highlights include:

  • 48 percent of all trials resulting in no conviction, compared to 46.5 percent in 2009 and 38.5 percent in 2008.
  • Approximately 700 felony cases dismissed due to the crime lab scandal.
  • 70 percent of homicide trials resulting in acquittals, hung juries or mixed verdicts.
  • 2 homicide convictions overturned on appeal.
  • 71 percent of domestic violence trials resulting in acquittals, hung juries or mixed verdicts.
  • 3:1 vs. 5:1: Recommended number of attorneys assigned to a single defense investigator vs. actual number of attorneys assigned to a single defense investigator.
  • Launching of a pilot program allowing those under a mental health conservatorship to be placed in the community, minimizing their interactions with the criminal justice system.
  • 39 percent reduction in re-arrests for Behavioral Health Court clients.
  • 0 children sent to state incarceration facilities or transferred to adult criminal court.

These statistics and many more are included in the Public Defender’s office 2010 Annual Report and 2011 Calendar, which is not printed at public expense.  The Public Defender’s office is one of the few city departments that provide printed annual reports to the public.

Adachi said the report reflects his office’s commitment to transparency and gives the public a broad view of the criminal justice system.

“People often think that if someone is charged with a crime, there must be overwhelming evidence,” he said. “In fact, juries did not find enough to convict in nearly half the jury trials.”

The public may pick up the free calendar at the front desk of the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, 555 Seventh St. (between Brannan and Bryant streets.)

Note to Media: High Resolution Images of Calendar Pages Available

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