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San Francisco DA committed misconduct in murder trial, appeals court says

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins speaks to The Standard in an interview earlier this year. | Source: Justin Katigbak for The Standard

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins committed misconduct when, as an assistant DA under Chesa Boudin, she accused a defense lawyer of fabricating their case in order to fool the jury in a murder trial, according to a California Appeals Court ruling.

Jenkins downplayed the ruling, which culminated an appeal related to the murder case. In a statement Tuesday, she said the misconduct in the fall 2021 trial was a minor mistake that did not impact the case’s outcome. 

The trial of Daniel Gudino—who killed his mother in the throes of a mental health crisis that made him think she was a demon, according to records reviewed by The Standard—was the last case Jenkins tried before quitting her job. She said her decision to leave Boudin’s office to join the push to recall him stemmed in part from how her bosses handled that case. 

However, the defense attorney at the center of the ruling says the findings send a message about what she called “ethical issues” at the top of the DA’s Office. 

“It calls into question her ethics—and she is the head of the office,” said Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon Yañez, who defended Gudino. “There is something especially gratifying by the fact that part of the misconduct was impugning my integrity.” 

The misconduct took place during the closing arguments of the initial trial, after which Gudino was found guilty of murder, according to court documents. He was later found not guilty by way of insanity and sent to a mental institution. 

Gudino’s appeal alleged misconduct in the case and sought to overturn the murder verdict so he could be retried, which may have resulted in his release. Most of those arguments were rebutted in the ruling.

However, the court found that Jenkins engaged in misconduct when she said it was not the defense attorney’s job to “seek justice or to tell the truth about what happened … the defense’s obligation is to their client; and by any means necessary they seek to have him acquitted of these charges, even if that means using biased, uninformed and untruthful witnesses.” 

The ruling explained that prosecutors are barred from making unsubstantiated accusations that a lawyer made up a defense to fool the jury.

Chesa Boudin appears at a November 2021 press conference in San Francisco. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Jenkins described the misconduct as a “harmless error” in a statement to The Standard, wherein she defended her commitment to ethical and fair prosecutions.

She added that her statement about the defense counsel in court was “part of the larger argument undermining the defense witnesses,” but reiterated her belief in a robust defense. 

“I recognize that defense counsel plays an important role in our criminal justice system and zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients is essential to a well-functioning criminal justice system,” she said. 

While defending her actions, she also called the appeal attorney’s efforts to have Gudino released dangerous and criticized the finding that Gudino was not guilty by reason of insanity. 

Jean Frances Matulis, Gudino’s appeal case attorney, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Even after losing her bid to declare him sane, Jenkins sought to send Gudino to prison for life instead of to a mental health facility.

When the District Attorney’s Office declined to proceed with a retrial on the insanity portion of the case, Jenkins did not show up to court, according to transcripts. She resigned that same day, saying publicly that her superiors had undermined her.

Andrea Shorter, Mary Jung and Brooke Jenkins speak to the media in San Francisco after the recall of DA Chesa Boudin on June 7, 2022. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Gudino killed his mother on April 12, 2020. 

After reading social media posts about cannibalism, he said he feared his mother and sister would eat him, according to court records. In the days leading up to the killing, he had stopped taking his psychiatric medication, had not slept, and smoked what he believed to be fentanyl, records said.

He strangled his mother and then beat her with a baseball bat before drilling into her body and killing her, the court filings say. He then set her body on fire. When police responded to a call about a fire, they found Gudino naked and covered in blood, the court filings say. 

“Oh my God,” he said, “I can’t believe I fucking did that to my mom.”

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at