Wednesday, November 5, 2014 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A 49-year-old woman accused of beating a rival in a barroom brawl was acquitted of all charges after a jury viewed video evidence that showed she acted in self-defense, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated four hours before finding San Francisco resident Joy Jeffries not guilty of one count of battery and one count of violating a restraining order. If convicted of the misdemeanors, Jeffries faced a year in jail, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Andrea Lindsay.
Jeffries was arrested June 18 in the Bayview neighborhood, after patrol officers spotted her in a physical altercation with another woman on the sidewalk behind The Jazz Room bar. There was a history of bad blood between Jeffries and the 39-year-old complaining witness stemming from the woman’s child bullying Jeffries’ daughter. After school officials failed to stop the bullying, Jeffries confronted the mother verbally. The woman then filed a restraining order against Jeffries.
After police separated the pair, the woman told officers Jeffries followed her outside, then swung a set of car keys at her face, striking her in the cheek. Police noted the woman had no visible injuries, and she refused medical attention. Jeffries, whose face was bloodied, did not have a chance to tell police her side of the story. After learning about the restraining order against Jeffries and hearing her slur her words, police concluded she was intoxicated and had likely been the aggressor in the attack. In fact, Jeffries was born with a hearing impairment that affects her speech, and had only a single drink prior to the beating, Lindsay said.
During the trial, surveillance video contradicted the complaining witness’ story. In the footage, the woman can be seen blocking Jeffries’ exit from the bar while screaming at her. As Jeffries tries to exit, the woman punches her twice. The pair falls to the ground, where they grapple in front of a growing crowd.
Both women took the stand during the trial. Jurors found Jeffries’ testimony to be honest and straightforward, while the complaining witness appeared evasive with her answers, Lindsay said.
Jurors also viewed police photographs of the women at the scene. Jeffries is visibly injured, while the complaining witness is smiling broadly with nary a scratch.
Jeffries, a current college student and a former caregiver for hospice patients and disabled children, wept with relief when the verdict was read.
“The jury saw what the prosecution refused to see: that Ms. Jeffries was the victim here. She was the victim of a bad police investigation and of an unprovoked attack outside the bar,” Lindsay said.
Adachi said the case illustrates the need to look beyond the surface of disputes.
“Ms. Jeffries did not walk into The Jazz Room looking for a fight. In fact, she tried to avoid the conflict. However, when a person is attacked, they have the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves,” he said. “Fortunately, Ms. Jeffries’ public defender was able uncover the truth through video evidence.”