FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 13, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | PDR-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | Valerie Ibarra (628)249-7946
Jury Acquits Unhoused Man Who Defended Himself Against Repeated Threats by an Inebriated Pedestrian
Hasira Sutton spent over 500 days in jail amid court delays
SAN FRANCISCO – On Nov. 3, a San Francisco jury acquitted Hasira Sutton, an unhoused man who defended himself against repeated acts of aggression and threats by an inebriated pedestrian near Union Square in June 2022. Deputy Public Defenders Alexa Horner and Christopher Garcia represented Sutton, who spent over 500 days in jail until a jury acquitted him of all felony charges and hung on two misdemeanor counts. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed the final counts on Nov. 7.
“We thank the jury for evaluating the evidence and understanding that Mr. Sutton acted in self-defense in response to repeated acts of aggression by the pedestrian that night,” said Horner. Although the prosecutor played a surveillance video clip to the jury that showed the encounter between Sutton and the pedestrian that led to Sutton’s arrest, the defense played more comprehensive footage that showed an encounter from earlier that evening.
The comprehensive footage from the night of June 14, 2022, shows the pedestrian and a group of friends leaving a bar and then yelling and threatening Sutton who was waiting to cross the street at the intersection of Post and Taylor. Sutton told them to leave him alone and walked away. The group continued to follow Sutton and threaten him while he repeatedly asked them to leave him alone. Eventually the group leaves and Sutton lies down on the sidewalk to fall asleep. Sutton sleeps on the sidewalk for over an hour until the pedestrian returns and wakes him up. The man begins gesticulating and moving toward Sutton, who testified that the man was cursing at him and saying that he wanted to fight. The man continued to move closer before Sutton hit him several times in quick succession in self-defense.
Although the pedestrian testified that he had 3 to 4 beers at a bar with friends earlier in the evening, his blood alcohol level tested by paramedics at the scene showed it was .327, which is more than four times the legal limit for driving.
Sutton testified that he has been homeless for several years and has been the victim of violence dozens of times. Years prior, he had been a college football player, but was hospitalized after being attacked. The defense team called expert witnesses who affirmed that people who are unhoused and those who have been victims of violent crime often develop a heightened sense of danger, which helped explain the need to use self-defense against the aggressor.
“Early media reports on this case were biased against our client and lacked important context, which is why it’s so important for our office to set the record straight in light of this acquittal,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “Jury trials provide the opportunity for San Franciscans to do the important work of scrutinizing the state’s evidence and reaching a just and lawful outcome, which they’ve done here for Mr. Sutton.”
Sutton’s defense team was able to track down family members who had lost touch with him. One relative was able to fly in to hear the jury return a verdict of not guilty and to welcome Sutton on his release from jail after 507 days in custody. Public Defender social workers are making efforts to identify potential housing options for Sutton.
The defense team included Deputy Public Defenders Alexa Horner and Christopher Garcia, Investigator Jill Schroeder, Paralegals Sercan Ersoy and Chris Koubek, and Social Worker Angela Lagman.