A conflict of interest may get the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office pulled off a case involving the mayor’s brother.
SF Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy said he plans to issue a ruling next month in the Napoleon Brown case, which the DA argues has just the appearance of a conflict.
Defense lawyers want the DA recused from the case because Mayor London Breed appointed its chief prosecutor, Brooke Jenkins, while the office was handling Brown’s sentencing review.
Brown was convicted of murder 22 years ago in a 2000 crime spree that ended in a car crash that killed his girlfriend on the Golden Gate Bridge. He was sentenced to 44 years behind bars, but in a retrial granted due to ineffective counsel, he pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter. Brown was granted a sentencing review earlier this year.
When the mayor appointed Jenkins in July, she was walled off from the case and put Chief Assistant District Attorney Ana Gonzalez in charge. The office also asked if the California Attorney General would take the case, but the state deemed the firewall a good enough safeguard.
The AG argued in court again Monday that no conflict exists and that the ethical walls set up by the DA should ensure a fair prosecution.
Brown’s attorney Marc Zilversmit pushed back against that notion. He said it’s impossible for prosecutors to be independent if they’re at-will employees that Jenkins could fire at any time.
Gonzalez, the prosecutor overseeing the Brown case, “is tied to the political future of DA Jenkins,” Zilversmit said.
But Gonzalez—who returned to the DA’s office after Jenkins took office—has said any position she takes can be unfairly characterized by the public.
Nonetheless, she said that will have no bearing on the prosecution.
“What I have said is that when I take a position, [it will be] based on law and facts,” Gonzalez said.
In an earlier hearing, Gonzalez said the DA’s Office plans to oppose Brown’s request for a resentencing.
Conray will rule on the recusal on Jan. 9.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]