FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 7, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: PubDef-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | Valerie Ibarra, PIO (628)249-7946
Two Juries Acquit Man Who Defended Himself Against Shopkeeper While Trying to Use Shop Bathroom
Final Charge Dismissed Last Week
SAN FRANCISCO – On Nov. 3, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the final charge against Donovan Catron, who in June 2021 defended himself against a shopkeeper who physically ejected Catron in response to his attempt to access the shop’s bathroom. Catron spent over two years in county jail and was tried twice at great taxpayer expense. In January, a jury acquitted Catron of elder abuse, and in September, a second jury acquitted him of assault and rejected the district attorney’s theory that a knife was used. Both juries hung on the charge of mayhem, a legal term describing disfigurement, due to an eye injury the shopkeeper suffered during the encounter. Catron remained jailed two months past his last trial before prosecutors dismissed the final charge last week.
In both trials, Deputy Public Defenders Patrick Geddes (January) and Anthony Miziko (September) respectively argued that surveillance footage showed Catron was not the aggressor and had acted in lawful self-defense after the shopkeeper tried to physically throw him out of the shop.
“We thank both juries for carefully reviewing the evidence and recognizing that, although Mr. Catron was unwanted in the shop, he was acting in self-defense after being punched, pushed, and having several clumps of his hair pulled out by the shopkeeper,” said Miziko. “By waiting two months after his last trial to dismiss the remaining charge, the prosecution further delayed justice for Mr. Catron, whose speedy trial rights had already been violated by the court.”
Despite Catron asserting his Constitutional right to a speedy trial, SF Superior Court delayed his first trial for 18 months past the deadline. Catron then had to wait another nine months after prosecutors asked for a retrial on the charges that hung in the first trial. After the second trial, prosecutors announced their intention to pursue a third trial on the mayhem charge, so Catron remained jailed two more months before the charge was dismissed. In total, Mr. Catron was forced to spend nearly two and a half years in jail in near-lockdown conditions with no sunlight.
“This case not only underscores the importance of holding speedy trials, but also highlights how unjust and wasteful such aggressive prosecutions can be,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, whose office has been advocating for SF Superior Court to end its pandemic-era practice of continuing trials past their Constitutionally mandated deadline without good cause. “I commend the defense teams for the time and determination it took to properly try the case twice.”
The defense team included Deputy Public Defender Anthony Miziko, Investigator Cari Phillips, former San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Patrick Geddes, and paralegal staff.