Discover more from Gotham by Susan Dyer Reynolds
Did Chesa Boudin really get 35 murder convictions?
The devil's in the details
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has been all over the news lately touting his homicide conviction rate. With 83,000 signatures gathered, Boudin faces a recall election this June. Since one of the biggest complaints from San Franciscans is that he is “soft on crime” Boudin is playing defense to prove otherwise. At a recent anti-recall rally, the embattled top cop said his murder conviction rate was higher than that of the last administration (George Gascón, who left office and is now the DA in Los Angeles). He also made that point when providing data to reporter Susie Neilson of the San Francisco Chronicle. In a Nov. 4 column Neilson wrote, “The data shows that homicide conviction rates have increased from 67% of 39 cases during the final two years of Gascón’s leadership to 83% of 42 cases under Boudin.” She prefaces that statement with, “The conviction rate refers to the share of cases charged by a D.A. that lead to a conviction, including cases that are resolved ahead of a trial, such as by negotiating a plea deal,” and points out that “only a small share of criminal cases ever gets tried by a jury.” True. But Boudin’s data is lacking, because he doesn’t provide specifics about those homicide cases or their dispositions. So we decided to dig into those 42 homicide cases under Boudin — and in particular the 35 where he achieved convictions.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS
On the San Francisco District Attorney’s own statistics dashboard we found just six homicide cases from one month (March, 2020) under Boudin. Four are churning through the courts, a fifth just fell off the calendar, and in the sixth, the suspect was arrested in Daly City after the murder charges in San Francisco appear to have been dropped.
Next we dug in to find the six court numbers, which led to the defendants’ names, as follows:
20004192 - ALEXANDER, MARQUETT PIERE
20004190 - MORENO, BRYAN RODRIGO
20004191 - TELLEZ, RODRIGO
20004169 - TICAS, OSCAR A
20004050 - HERRERA, OMAR
20003473 - ESCOBAR-ARTIGA, KEVIN ANTHONY
Marquett Alexander, age 43, was arrested by the San Francisco Police on March 24, 2020, and charged with possession of a controlled substance, carrying a firearm on person or in vehicle while in a public place, discharge of a firearm in a negligent manner, a 20-year firearms sentence enhancement, and murder.
He was on probation at the time of the arrest. According to court records, he last appeared three months earlier, on Dec. 23, 2019 in Dept. 50, for possession of a controlled substance, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant, and cruelty to a child by inflicting injury.
Alexander’s last appeared in court was on June 26, 2020 in Dept. 22, but he was no longer charged with discharging a firearm, the firearm enhancement, or murder. Only the possession of controlled substance and carrying a loaded firearm charges remained. He was scheduled on the court calendar for both cases in August and September of 2020. No further court action was found in San Francisco, but obviously he was released, because on May 1, 2021, Alexander was arrested by Daly City Police for carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle.
Interestingly, the Daly City arrest doesn’t list Alexander as a prohibited person or a felon in possession of a firearm despite the original serious charges in San Francisco. The Alexander case is a textbook example of lack of consequences leading to more crime, as he went from probation, to homicide, to reduced charges, to being released, and finally to picking up another gun charge in another city.
As for the other murder defendants, Moreno, Tellez, and Ticas are all awaiting trial in county jail. Herrera was on trial in June 2021, but the trial proceedings stopped and he's also sitting in county jail. Escobar-Artiga appears to have been sentenced in Dept. 22 on June 28, 2021, but he's not in custody.
So what happened to the 35 murder convictions claimed by Boudin? According to sources, in 2020, over 30 homicide cases were settled. Zero pled to first or second degree murder. All of them pled to voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or some other charges for determinate sentence. And many were released with credit for time served.
The bottom line is Boudin cherry picks his statistics and spoon feeds them to “friendly” reporters like Susie Neilson because they won’t ask tough questions. To say Boudin has an “83 percent homicide conviction rate” may be true, but it’s disingenuous to leave out important details like what those convictions were for. In the nearly two years that I have been requesting public records from the DA’s office, I have yet to receive a single one. That’s because I ask detailed questions they don’t want to answer: What were the 35 convictions for? Where are the defendants now? If they were released, have they reoffended?
Instead of cherry picking statistics and selectively releasing them to control the narrative on what a good job he is doing, Boudin should release everything to the public, and let them decide for themselves.