Allegedly False Confession Leads To Acquittal In South Van Ness Murder Trial

A man accused of a fatal shooting and robbery in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2012 was acquitted of all charges by a jury on Monday, according to the public defender’s office.

Sterling Samm, 21, of San Pablo, faced charges of murder, robbery, attempted robbery and felony gun possession following the slaying of 28-year-old Jose Matias-Aguilon at the intersection of South Van Ness Avenue and 20th Street on Oct. 30, 2012.

Previously: SF Man Allegedly Killed By 14 Year Old Boy Identified

However, Samm’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Christine Schenone, said police elicited a false confession from him that contradicted physical evidence in the case.

Samm had also been accused of a robbery at 17th and Capp streets 20 minutes before the fatal shooting, but the victim did not identify him as the suspect, according to the public defender’s office.

San Francisco police also arrested a boy, then 14 years old, for the robbery and shooting. His case is still pending in juvenile court, according to the public defender’s office.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement that the case is an example of how psychological manipulation can prompt false confessions.

“Mr. Samm’s ordeal shows how people in vulnerable situations can be tricked or intimidated into confessing to crimes they did not commit,” Adachi said. “It is unfortunate Mr. Samm was prosecuted on the confession alone, despite the mountain of evidence supporting his innocence.”

Samm, who had faced a sentence of life in prison if convicted of all charges, has been released from jail following the acquittal, according to the public defender’s office.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!