One of the longest-running murder cases in San Francisco’s recent history is finally headed to trial.
A superior court judge set an April 7 trial date after the sole defendant Lee Farley pleaded not guilty in the gruesome Hayes Valley shooting that left four young men dead on Jan. 9, 2015.
Farely is charged with murder for allegedly killing Manuel O’Neal, 22, Harith Atchan, 21, David Saucier, 20, and Yalani Chinyamurindi, 19, in what prosecutors say was a feud between two Fillmore gangs.
Police say the deadly drive-by stems from a conflict between a Page Street gang and Mac Block that continues to this day. Late last year, a federal judge convicted two men for a killing by the Fillmore Heritage Center in 2019 that authorities link to the same gang beef.
The victims' families meanwhile have repeatedly denied any gang involvement of the victims.
Farley was initially charged in the Hayes Valley cases in 2016, but appealed the gang enhancements after California changed the standard of evidence for such charges.
The appellate ruling threw out the gang enhancements, which gave the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office two choices: Try Farley solely on the murder charges or redo his preliminary hearing under the state’s stricter rules for proving gang involvement.
The appeals ruling led to a second preliminary hearing last month where a judge said there’s enough evidence for trial and another arraignment.
That’s what brought the defendant to court this week.
Farley appeared in Judge Brendan Conroy’s courtroom on Thursday with his attorney by his side and family of the victims in the gallery. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“Not guilty, not guilty,” Farley repeated as the judge read out the four counts of murder, gang enhancements and firearms.
Prosecutor Heather Trevis followed up by bringing the court's attention to the gallery.
“The mothers of each victim are in court,” she said.
At the end of the proceedings, one relative of the victims remarked sarcastically how it took “only eight years” to get a trial date.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org