It was delayed but expected.
San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar was finally dismissed today from jury duty after spending nearly a week as a prospective juror in the domestic violence trial of his longtime friend and colleague, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.
Mar, who has known Mirkarimi for about 20 years and served with him on the Board of Supervisors for three years before Mirkarimi was elected sheriff last November, was one of nearly 200 potential jurors brought in last Wednesday for the trial of Mirkarimi.
Mirkarimi faces three misdemeanor charges–domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness–related to an incident on Dec. 31 in which he allegedly grabbed and bruised his wife’s arm during an argument.
Mar was dismissed in time to get back for this afternoon’s Board of Supervisors meeting and spoke briefly about his jury duty before the meeting.
“I feel like I did my civic responsibilities, but I’m so happy to be relieved” of jury duty, he said.
Mar said, “I didn’t expect to spend that number of days when it was clear” that his history with Mirkarimi would lead to his dismissal from the case.
Mar said he originally met Mirkarimi when he was working for the campaign of then-Supervisor Terence Hallinan, who later became district attorney. The pair were part of the progressive bloc of the Board of Supervisors who consistently voted on the same side of various issues.
After arriving for jury duty last Wednesday, Mar and the other jurors had to fill out a questionnaire about their awareness of the case, their opinions on domestic violence-related issues and, most importantly to Mar, whether they know Mirkarimi or other people connected to the case.
Mar was one of the last people to turn in the questionnaire that day.
“I did my duty to be as thorough as possible,” he said.
Despite the clear conflict, Mar remained in the juror pool on Monday and again today when the court finally dismissed him along with around 40 or 50 other people based on their questionnaire answers.
Mirkarimi’s attorney Lidia Stiglich said today the delay was because the court first had to deal with jurors who declared hardships preventing them from serving in the trial and only recently got to conflicts based on the questionnaires.
Mar said while he was in the jury assembly room, he was recognized by many of the other jurors.
“When my name was called, lots of people would turn around,” he said.
“They would come up to me as well, giving condolences, but I was giving condolences to others too for being away from their family and work,” he said with a laugh.
Mar said the jurors were all allowed to leave early enough on Monday that he made it to the board’s Land Use and Economic Development committee, which he chairs.
He was also dismissed early enough today to make it to a special meeting of the County Transportation Authority.
“I had my fingers crossed and was released in time,” he said. “It did pull me away from my work in the office, but I was able to make important committee meetings that I needed to be at.”
Despite being dismissed from the jury, Mar still cannot talk about the specifics of the case since he could have to rule on it as a member of the board.
Under the City Charter, Mayor Ed Lee has the option of suspending Mirkarimi as sheriff, which would lead to an Ethics Commission hearing, followed by a hearing by the Board of Supervisors, which would need the approval of nine of the 11 supervisors to remove him from office.
As for the trial, a three-judge San Francisco Superior Court appellate division is considering the admissibility of the key piece of evidence in the case, a 55-second video recorded on Jan. 1 of Lopez by neighbor Ivory Madison.
Lopez’s attorney Paula Canny argued in a pretrial hearing that the video, which reportedly shows Lopez crying, pointing to the bruise and recounting the incident, should be inadmissible because of Lopez’s attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors countered that while Madison graduated from law school, she did not pass the bar exam. Prosecutors also argued that Lopez’s interactions with Madison show the pair to be friends, not an attorney and client.
Judge Garrett Wong, who is overseeing the trial, denied Canny’s motion, saying that while Lopez may be the holder of attorney-client privilege, the evidence is not being used against her so the motion lacks standing.
On Friday, Canny appealed to the court’s appellate division, arguing that “the respondent court clearly abused its discretion in refusing to allow (Lopez) to assert her attorney-client privilege.”
The appellant division ruled Friday that they would consider the appeal and ordered prosecutors to respond by Wednesday, and for Canny to file a counter-response by this Friday.
Prosecutors filed a separate request with the appeal judges on Monday, asking for either an expedited briefing schedule and ruling on the matter, or to suspend trial proceedings until the matter is resolved.
The appellant judges granted the expedited briefing hearing in a ruling issued this afternoon. The judges ruled that Canny will now have to file a counter-response, if any, to the prosecutors’ response by Thursday, rather than Friday.
The case will continue Wednesday with continued jury selection after Wong today ordered 100 new prospective jurors to come in.
The judge could also rule by the end of the week on a motion by Mirkarimi’s attorney to move the trial to another county.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News