Reporter Laura Kusisto of the Wall Street Journal interviewed San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju about the legal actions he has taken to address the growing backlog of trials in San Francisco Superior Court during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many other counties have safely held jury trials throughout the pandemic, San Francisco Superior Court has not made sufficient courtroom space available. The result is that hundreds of people have been made to wait past their legal deadline for trial. In other words, their right to a speedy trial has been violated.
As of January 2022, there were nearly 250 legally innocent people in SF County Jail who were being held pre-trial and past their trial deadline. They account for 30% of the entire SF jail population, which is still under 23-hour lockdown conditions. One of these people is our client, William Cogman, whose trial deadline passed over a year ago. For this interview, he described how his health has deteriorated so much that he’s considering a plea on defensible charge simply so he can get out of jail and attend to his health.
“Those rights don’t mean anything if you don’t have a court where we can actually exercise those constitutional protections,” Mr. Raju said.