Thursday, January 3, 2013 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — The city’s poorest residents received extraordinary legal representation in 2012, with public defenders winning approximately half the cases taken to trial last year, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
The numbers, released this week as part of the San Francisco Public Defender’s 2012 Annual Report and 2013 Calendar, show that of the 60 felony trials handled by public defenders last year, 62 percent resulted in an acquittal, a hung jury or a dismissal. Another 16 percent of felony trials resulted in a split decision, meaning a client facing multiple charges was convicted on some counts and found not guilty on others.
Public defenders also secured an acquittal, hung jury or dismissal in 42 percent of the office’s 199 misdemeanor jury trials. Another 27 percent of misdemeanor trials resulted in a split decision.
The report’s theme, “Gideon Turns 50: Celebrating Free Defense for All,” marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court decision that mandated that all states provide defense attorneys at no cost to poor people accused of crimes. That case, which centered on a Florida drifter who was forced to represent himself on burglary charges despite an eighth grade education, was decided March 18, 1963.
The 2012 Annual Report and 2013 Calendar includes full color pictures in photojournalism and portrait styles of actual public defender clients and employees taken by photographer Richard Bui, the office’s web architect. The publication was not printed at public expense and is available, free, to the public at the Public Defender’s Office, 555 Seventh Street.
Photographs were shot inside courtrooms, San Francisco streets, a residential motel, a high school for students who have had trouble with the law and in front of Torn Constitution by Randy Figures, part of the SF Vets Mural Project, a mural project founded by Amos Gregory in 2011 to give voice to veterans, many of them homeless.
“We wanted our annual report and calendar to be more than a dry collection of numbers and graphs. Instead, we decided to show the sometimes gritty details of our work and the faces of our clients, people on whose behalf we fight each day,” Adachi said.
Other year-end accomplishments detailed in the report:
· Helping clear the criminal records of 1,500 people through the public defender’s Clean Slate program and linking hundreds of clients to treatment and services through the office’s social workers and collaborative courts.
· Implementing the state realignment initiative and providing reentry services to hundreds of returning state prisoners to reduce crime.
· Working to stop the practice of police improperly using pass keys to gain entry into hotel rooms without search warrants.
· Distributing more than 4,300 backpacks and school supplies to children and providing literacy and agency support through our community-based MAGIC programs.
· Receiving the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s “Reggie” Award for outstanding achievement in representing the poor.
The annual report and calendar kicks off a year of exciting public events celebrating the right to counsel.
On March 19, the office will hold the Public Defender’s Justice Summit at San Francisco Main Library, featuring leaders in the indigent defense movement and Karen Houpert, author of Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice.
On May 9, the public defender will co-sponsor the community event Together We Can End the Death Penalty: A Special Evening With Sister Helen Prejean at Temple Emanu-El. Sister Prejean, a leading abolitionist of capital punishment, was featured in the 1995 film Dead Man Walking.
The entire 2012 Annual Report and 2013 Calendar can be accessed at http://bit.ly/136vjKe