San Francisco, CA— A woman who defended herself against a physical assault had her case dismissed after the trial ended in a hung jury, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Mae Richardson, 56, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest, stemming from an incident that occurred on May 7 of this year.
Richardson, who has no criminal record, faced up to one year in jail if convicted, said Deputy Public Defender Nicholas Vangrin.
The case hinged on surveillance footage from the street, the body worn camera footage from police, and the testimony of a police officer.
Richardson, who lives in an SRO in the Tenderloin, was seen by the jury on surveillance footage being approached by a man as she walked home. A woman came up to her as well, and the two surrounded Richardson, who is 4-foot 11-inches tall and 125 pounds.
The jury saw the man and woman on the surveillance video, both much larger than Richardson, aggressively gesturing toward her and harassing her.
At one point on the tape, the male assailant can be seen putting Richardson in a headlock and she falls to the ground.
Richardson eventually retrieved a kitchen knife with a plastic handle from her bag and wielded it at her attackers to defend herself.
When police officers arrived, they saw Richardson with a knife in her hand and erroneously assumed she was the aggressor in the altercation. The drew their guns, shouting for her to “drop the knife.”
Richardson, yelling and visibly upset, released the knife after ten seconds, prompting the charge of resisting arrest. When she threw the knife down, it skidded towards one of the officers, prompting the assault charge.
“It was not her intent to resist arrest or to harm the officers,” Vangrin argued. “Members of the jury gave her the benefit of the doubt that she had been in this traumatic situation with her assailants.” Her actions were the result of the need to defend herself, not to hurt anyone or avoid arrest, he said.
When the jury returned hung on both counts, the judge declared it a mistrial and said that any jury in the future would most likely come to the same conclusions, according to Vangrin.
Adachi praised the Vangrin for his vigorous defense of Richardson. The case against her was dismissed on Friday.
“Ms. Richardson posed no threat to the police,” said Adachi. “Fortunately, several members of the jury saw the evidence and did the right thing by voting to acquit.”