Ingleside murder case
By Peter Jamison
September 21, 2009
One of the higher-profile San Francisco murder cases in recent memory
concluded with something less than a whimper in July, when six of the
seven defendants accused of killing a city police officer saw their
charges dismissed or reduced through plea deals. The defendants,
alleged former members of the Black Liberation Army, were charged in
the killing of Sergeant John Young at the Ingleside police station in
1971. The case was politically charged, with many arguing it was a
waste of scarce law-enforcement resources. But the full cost of the
Ingleside prosecution has yet to be tallied and may fall hard on
San Francisco taxpayers.
The California Attorney General's office brought the charges after
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris declined to do so. Yet
it was San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's office that was
obligated to mount a defense for the seven men. Each defendant was
entitled to two lawyers because of the heavy workload, but state
conflict-of-interest laws barred more than one staff attorney from
the public defender's office from being assigned to the case. So 13
private defense attorneys were hired by the city. While they worked
at reduced rates of $85 to $140 per hour about a third of what
private criminal-defense attorneys typically charge, Adachi said
the bill added up.
"I'm sure our costs were over $1 million, just from what I saw," said
Stuart Hanlon, one of the private defense attorneys. "There's no case
in my memory in San Francisco that compared to this case in its
scope." In fact, legal costs for defense attorneys in the Ingleside
case have so far added up to $1.7 million, according to city records.
That hefty expenditure springs in part from the large volume of
casework; Hanlon said he and his colleagues had to sift through more
than 300,000 pages of documents. "San Francisco County didn't bring
it, but the people of San Francisco bore the cost of it," he said.
"Given the outcome, it's outrageous."
Adachi said he will be "adamant" in seeking full reimbursement for
defense costs from the state. But nothing has been paid back yet,
and, given California's bleak finances, footing the legal bill for
accused cop killers may not be high on the list of state budget priorities.
Meanwhile, Dave Druliner, the state's lead prosecutor, said he has no
regrets. "Look at the crime, and what these individuals did," he
said. "That's not something that society or the criminal-justice
system should ever turn its back on. Whatever funds were and are
being used were extremely well-spent."