SFPD Destroys Physical Evidence During Trial; DA Disregards Exculpatory Evidence
San Francisco, CA – San Francisco resident Jerniece Menefee was acquitted of attempted murder and five additional felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon by a San Francisco jury last Friday afternoon. Menefee faced 34 years to life in prison.
On April 11, 2005, the San Francisco Police Department investigated a report of a single shot fired in the Fillmore District. No evidence of a shooting was recovered and no description of the shooter was offered. Four days later, a complaining witness reported to the police that he had found a bullet in his grandfather’s house, located near the scene of the shooting. The police recovered this bullet as evidence of the earlier shooting, although no ballistics tests were ever conducted to confirm its origins.
At trial, Deputy Public Defender Jacque Wilson intended to emphasize the fact that no gun was ever recovered and that there was no evidence of where this particular bullet had come from. However, three days into trial, the bullet that had been recovered two years earlier and secured in an evidence room, was “disposed” of by police. Wilson was not immediately informed that the evidence had been destroyed and, upon learning of it two days later, demanded to know why police had ignored protocol and disposed of physical evidence during trial. The police then searched their trash and found a bullet that the District Attorney’s Office attempted to enter into evidence at trial. Upon Wilson’s objection, Judge Harold Kahn refused to admit the bullet into evidence because there was no reason to believe that the bullet pulled from trash was the same bullet discarded by police or that it was in any way connected to the alleged shooting.
The District Attorney John Zahar’s case rested solely on the testimony of off-duty Sheriff Doug Jones who initially reported hearing a shot and seeing a car, and then months later revised his testimony to identify Menefee as the shooter. However, Deputy Public Defender Wilson submitted evidence that Menefee was at work in El Dorado on the day of the shooting, from 10:30AM to 6:30PM. The shooting occurred at 7:00PM in the Fillmore.
According to Wilson, “Ms. Menefee has spent 20 months behind bars waiting to stand trial in a case where neither the police nor the District Attorney had any evidence of her guilt. In fact, they had no evidence that a crime had even been committed, other than an untested bullet that was intentionally disposed of by police during trial and the uncorroborated testimony of an off-duty Sheriff. I am happy that the jury was able to see through the lies and the deceit in this case and acquit Ms. Menefee. She will never be the same, but at least she will be able to hold her children again.”
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.