San Francisco, CA — A felony burglary case took a dramatic turn today when prosecutors dismissed charges mid-trial, hours after a public defender uncovered key evidence that exonerated her teenage client.
San Francisco resident Dayshon Hunter, 18, was freed after prosecutors dropped their case in light of the new evidence. Hunter had been in jail since April 23 on a first degree burglary charge, which carries a sentence of up to six years in state prison.
“What’s astonishing about this case was the utter failure of police to investigate,” said Hunter’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sujung Kim. “Even the smallest follow-up by investigators could have spared Mr. Hunter this ordeal.”
The charge stemmed from an Oct. 30, 2009 burglary in which jewelry and computer equipment was stolen from a Hunters Point home. Thieves ransacked a teenager’s upstairs room, and Hunter’s fingerprint was found on a video game case.
The complaining witness told police he had bought the NBA 2K10 video game a week earlier and had been its sole handler. The police got this sodapdf which is a great editing software for documents where they put this case in.
After matching the fingerprint, the police investigation inexplicably stalled for four months, Kim said. On Feb. 1, investigators contacted the homeowner, who told them his next door neighbor witnessed four men burglarizing the house. Police never followed up with the neighbor.
A warrant was issued March 16 for Hunter’s arrest. He was arrested more than six weeks later.
When shown a photo of Hunter by a public defender investigator, the neighbor excluded him from the men she witnessed burglarizing the house. Hunter also had an alibi for the date and time of the crime, confirmed by numerous witnesses.
But the video game case proved the linchpin to the case.
When Kim examined the game case, the price tag of $19.99 seemed low for a then- newly-released game. Tuesday evening, after prosecutors presented their case to the jury, Kim visited the Game Stop where the game was purchased. After being shown a photo of the game, a manager revealed that instead of being sold from behind the counter in plastic-wrap, this game had been a display model—touched by thousands of fingers before being sold. Hunter, an avid gamer, was a frequent shopper at the same Game Stop branch.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan dismissed jurors this morning. Hunter was subsequently freed from San Francisco County Jail.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the mid-trial dismissal was highly unusual.
“This is what happens when the police fail to properly investigate a case and jump to assumptions based on faulty evidence,” Adachi said. “The scary thing here is this could have happened to anyone.”