The fate of a murder case in San Francisco changed over the course of a courthouse lunch break and oath of office at City Hall.
When the San Francisco Superior Court convened a preliminary hearing in the trial of Sincere Pomar and Stevie Mitchell Friday morning, Chesa Boudin was the city’s district attorney.
By the time proceedings resumed after a midday recess, Brooke Jenkins had been sworn in as San Francisco’s chief prosecutor, introducing a potential conflict and a call for recusal because of her family ties to the victim—her husband’s cousin.
Pam Herzig, who represents the two co-defendants, urged the judge on Friday to bar the District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case because of Jenkins’ personal connection and statements she made publicly about charges leveled against the accused killers.
“What has changed … is that yesterday afternoon we learned of the appointment of Mrs. Jenkins to be the district attorney,” Herzig informed Judge Victor Hwang the next morning.
As the voice of the campaign to recall Boudin, Jenkins criticized her former boss for not filing gang enhancements—charges that add stricter penalties and years of imprisonment for crimes linked to street gangs—against the two men accused of killing 18-year-old Jerome Mallory.
Thursday’s announcement that Mayor London Breed had chosen to appoint Jenkins prompted counsel in the case to ask the California Attorney General’s Office to weigh in on the potential conflict, which Herzig said would bar her clients from a fair trial.
In a letter mentioned in court, the state AG said the DA’s past firewall, a policy that prevented Jenkins from accessing any information about the case, was enough of a safeguard. But the letter was only a recommendation.
Herzig argued that the AG’s letter did not go far enough to evaluate “the conflict of interest addressed by Brooke Jenkins.”
“The conflict is that Jenkins is related to the victim,” said Herzig, adding that the alleged killers were charged when “she was deputy DA in homicide.”
That link—and potentially more—should force the DA’s Office to recuse itself from the case, according to Herzig. She said she has additional requests for discovery, which could reveal details about how much Jenkins knew of the case and whether she breached a firewall.
In contradiction to those claims, the attorney prosecuting the two men said Jenkins—who worked in the DA’s homicide unit before she quit in October 2021 to join the campaign to recall Boudin—was walled off from the case and will remain so in her new role as head of the agency.
Deputy District Attorney Aaron Laycook said his office has recently redoubled its efforts in this regard by asking IT and operations that “Jenkins be walled off again.”
“That,” he said, “will be in place before her swearing in.”
The murder case in question has involved much back-and-forth over the issue of Jenkins potential conflict and has included discovery of internal emails and documents, both counsel noted in court.
The case’s outcome could change if Jenkins decides to get involved by allowing her office to amend the charges to include gang enhancements—something Boudin ended under his tenure.
That the killing on July 5, 2020, in the Double Rock projects involved gangs is clear, according to Laycook: the two co-defendants were motivated by their membership in a group called Tre-4.
Despite the assurance of prosecutors about imposing a buffer between Jenkins and the case, Herzig said she still needs to know “who knew what and when.” Pending discovery requests, which she mentioned in court, could elicit more information on Jenkins’ potential conflict.
For the time being, the matter of a recusal remains undecided. Herzig—who did not say definitively when or if she will move on the issue—must file a motion for the process to begin. Once she formally requests a ruling, that kicks off a 10-day notice period, followed by a decision by Judge Hwang.
When reached by phone after her swearing-in, Jenkins declined to say whether or not her office would step back from the case. “We will make sure as an office,” she said, “that … we are not handling any [cases] where there is any potential conflict of interest.”
For the case at hand, she said her office will consult with outside agencies and the City Attorney’s Office to determine a course of action.
Either way, she said: “It is a decision that will be made very quickly.”
Michael Barba contributed to this report.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com