Legal Pad was not at San Francisco’s Hall of Justice yesterday or today to witness the following pandemonium, but we wish we had been.
Eight men were arrested on suspicion of gang-related witness intimidation, according to various news reports, after San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Eric Safire directed them to stand up when a key witness for the prosecution was asked to identify the shooter in a murder case.
“I just wanted him not to be the only black guy with gold teeth in the room,” Safire told Legal Pad this afternoon, explaining that he had had to work hard to get the men to come to the preliminary hearing. Safire said it’s an age-old tactic: “All the great defense lawyers in the world used to do it.”
After the jump, our mind drifts to imagining the eventual cross-examination: And exactly how many gold teeth did the shooter have? Molars or incisors?
Safire today asked for reassurance from Judge Wallace Douglass that he wasn’t in trouble with the law. “Before I continue, I want a representation from the District Attorney’s Office that I’m not going to be arrested,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He threatened to withdraw from the case, the paper also reported, because the arrests had a “chilling effect on my ability to represent my client.”
The judge didn’t offer much comfort: “I can’t guarantee that you won’t be arrested,” he said. “The district attorney can arrest who he wants.”
Safire told Legal Pad that he was granted immunity later this afternoon. But that hasn’t protected him from receiving hateful e-mails from people following the story. “I’m not very popular at the moment.”
Safire says his hands were tied. The judge had denied his lineup motion but granted his motion to allow the defendant to wear street clothes to the hearing. But the sheriff’s office put a stop to that, citing courtroom safety, he said. So the only option left to even the playing field, he added, was to bring in men who look like his client.
The witness is dead wrong about her identification of Safire’s client as the shooter, he said. For one thing, he added, she described a man with one gold tooth. “My client has a mouthful of gold. It’s a grill, you know?”
In the ongoing case almost affectionately dubbed the “Bamm-Bamm Bling” murder, a Texas woman identified the defendant yesterday as the man she allegedly saw shoot Richard Barrett outside a nightclub in 2008 when she was in town for a conference. Prosecutors say a pendant of the Flinstones’ Bamm Bamm was at stake in the murder, according to news reports.
The men arrested on suspicion of gang-related witness intimidation are still in jail, Safire said, even though he tried to explain to the arresting officers that he had told them to stand up.
— Kate Moser