January 5, 2021
Media Contact: Public Information Officer – Valerie Ibarra – (628)249-7946 – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org
SF Public Defender Mano Raju’s Statement on the Arrest of Troy McAlister
“Tragically, two lives were lost in our midst on New Year’s Eve. Our hearts go out to the families of Hanako Abe and Elizabeth Platt.
My office represents Troy McAlister, the man arrested in response. We are just beginning to receive information to make legal determinations in this case, and hold to our legal duty to uphold the principle of innocence unless and until proven guilty. What seems clear already is that this painful set of circumstances has illuminated larger, multi-system, societal failures.
We have learned from decades of failed “tough on crime” rhetoric and policies that focusing primarily on whether the system could have incarcerated someone longer, more often, or more severely is how we find ourselves in the current scenario. We cannot let opponents of a more fair and just criminal legal system exploit this loss-of-life to convince others that the system we’ve long relied upon is the best we can do.
I also want to make clear that Chesa Boudin never represented Troy McAlister. Some are misinterpreting court minutes that show Mr. Boudin as “special[ly] . . . appearing for the attorney of record” on a “motion to continue,” but this was strictly an administrative appearance that lawyers routinely make when a colleague is unavailable on an uncontested matter. On the date at issue here, Mr. McAlister’s lawyer was in trial in another case and she filed the motion to continue as a result. It is common for attorneys to make “stand-in” appearances on behalf of an unavailable colleague. Mr. Boudin was apparently such a “stand-in” on an uncontested postponement of the case to a new date. He would not have had any confidential information nor presented any arguments on Mr. McAlister’s behalf. Our overburdened courts could scarcely function without such courtesies.
Of much greater importance is the recognition that we have a collective responsibility – as justice partners in the legal system locally and statewide – to redirect our efforts and resources. We must rethink our current responses to harm by centering people who have been harmed, ensuring they are cared for, and working to understand why the harm happened. We must commit to trying to prevent harm, not by attempting to mercilessly punish it away, but by disrupting the pathway to harm and violence through systems of support and care. This is what is actually needed for our communities to be safe. We as a society must delve into understanding how our systems fail people in ways that lead to tragedy and how we can learn from these mistakes to promote more healing, rather than more misery. That is what my office has begun to do and what every agency that has an opportunity to intervene should do, not just with more punishment but with more support, in order to prevent these kinds of tragedies.”