In December 2022, CBS News Innovation Lab interviewed San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, and Ms. Pray’s client Sarina Borg for an in-depth report looking at the national problem of court backlogs: Growing backlog of court cases delays justice for crime victims and the accused
Ms. Borg waited 2.5 years in jail – while her health and family suffered greatly – before her case got assigned to a trial courtroom. Once at trial, after the prosecution’s witnesses had testified, the judge granted the defense motion to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence; and she could finally go home. Ms. Borg is just one of hundreds of people whose right to a speedy trial has been violated by San Francisco Superior Court, over 150 of whom remain jailed beyond their trial deadlines, and many more in line behind them as the backlog continues to grow.
Public Defender Raju spoke about the ongoing advocacy of the Public Defender’s Office to stoke the courts to address the unresolved trial backlog in San Francisco Superior Court, which is contributing to the humanitarian crisis in county jail, where many have remained under 23-hour lockdown, with limited visitation, scant programming and treatment, and no exposure to sunlight, throughout the pandemic.
When asked why more people in our society aren’t paying attention to this issue, Mr. Raju responded:
“the vast majority of our clients are poor, many have mental health issues, many have housing issues, people of color. This is a group that doesn’t have a lot of political capital, and if this were happening to a different demographic, it would be a national outrage…the constitution is supposed to apply to everyone in our society equally.”
Ms. Pray explained to CBS:
“For 2.5 years we knew if we could just get into a trial courtroom, the truth would come out, the facts would present themselves, and we were just consistently denied the opportunity to prove HER innocence.”