Reporter Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that, on April 12, 2021, a San Francisco jury determined that U.S. military veteran George Kennedy, 49, was not guilty of two felony assaults because he was suffering from a mental health crisis and was unaware of his actions. Deputy Public Defender Martina Avalos and her team presented expert testimony to explain to the jury that Mr. Kennedy was in the midst of an acute psychotic episode that rendered him unconscious, which meant that he was not criminally culpable.
“The jury understood that Mr. Kennedy was not conscious when these troubling incidents occurred. Cases like this are uncomfortable for all of us who care about the health and safety of our communities, but this case reminds us that criminal court is not the appropriate venue to address mental illness. Prison was never going to be the solution to Mr. Kennedy’s mental illness. Now, he can continue to get the medical care he needs through his full coverage with the Veterans Administration,” said deputy public defender Martina Avalos.
“This was a very difficult and sad case. Clearly, Mr. Kennedy suffers from serious mental health issues and did not have the awareness and intent that the law requires for a criminal conviction. This case is a prime example of how the criminal legal system is not designed to solve our public health and safety problems,” said Public Defender Mano Raju. “I commend our defense team who worked hard and skillfully to secure not guilty verdicts and avoid further incarceration for someone who is seriously ill.”
Photo (cropped) – Jessica Christian, SF Chronicle