FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 1, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: PubDef-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | Valerie Ibarra, PIO (628) 249-7946
San Francisco Jury Acquits Man Who Defended Himself and Pregnant Girlfriend
SAN FRANCISCO – On Monday, Feb. 27, a jury acquitted Mario Ramirez of attempted murder and related charges, finding that Ramirez acted in self-defense and in defense of his then-pregnant girlfriend when he shot another man in January 2022. Deputy Public Defender Will Helvestine represented Ramirez, who has spent the last year in jail awaiting trial, nearly nine months past his Constitutionally mandated trial deadline due to the extreme trial backlog in San Francisco Superior Court.
The jury heard evidence that the alleged victim had assaulted Ramirez just hours before the shooting and had repeatedly threatened to assault him again. When the man confronted Ramirez and Ramirez’s girlfriend outside their home, Ramirez shot him once in the hip.
“The jury did the right and thoughtful thing in evaluating the situation for what it was – an act of self-defense and defense of others,” said Helvestine, who argued in court that the force used was reasonable under the circumstances. “What’s truly unfortunate is that Mr. Ramirez was held in jail so long past his speedy trial deadline that he missed the birth of his child.”
The alleged victim testified at trial that he and Ramirez were former friends. However, he admitted that on the night of the Jan. 29, 2022 shooting, he was under the influence of methamphetamine when he accused Ramirez of stealing from him, punched Ramirez in the face, and threatened to assault him again. Ramirez’s girlfriend testified that the attack had left Ramirez bloodied and frightened, and that the couple avoided returning home for several hours for fear that the alleged victim would be waiting there for them.
The jury acquitted Ramirez on the three main counts of attempted murder, assault with a semi-automatic weapon, and battery likely to cause great bodily injury, but convicted him on illegal gun possession.
“The opportunity to have a jury carefully review the evidence in a case, and having a highly skilled legal defense team, can make all the difference, but too many people in San Francisco are waiting months and years, often in jail or shackled to 24/7 ankle monitors, just to get that chance,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, whose office has been tracking the systematic violation of speedy trial rights in San Francisco Superior Court since the beginning of the pandemic. The latest available data on the trial backlog shows approximately 840 cases with trial deadlines that have passed, including 150 people who remain jailed without trial.
The defense team was led by Deputy Public Defender Will Helvestine, Felony Paralegal Nathan Conn, and Investigator Nigel Phillips.