Newly installed SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins will have his work cut out for him managing a district attorney transition office, being seen as tougher on crime than his predecessor, and also sticking to progressive ideals in matters of incarceration. But she begins to explain how she will go about it.
No sooner was the news breaking Thursday that Brooke Jenkins, one of the faces of SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s removal campaign, was being installed as his replacement, than The New York Times warned her for a short interview.
The California Today column brought Jenkins’ nomination to the fore today in The Times, and we have the first post-recall announcement interview with Jenkins, in which she both tries to put her campaign against her former boss behind her, and tries to be both progressive and tough on crime.
Whether or not you supported Boudin’s recall, I think we can all agree that being DA in San Francisco right now is likely to be a thankless job, and that Jenkins will have a difficult task ahead to resolve all of the city crime problems. time for voters to fully elect him in November.
“I think people are going to have to be patient,” Jenkins told The Times. “They’re going to have to temper their expectations. Not only is the city in crisis, but the district attorney’s office itself is in crisis.”
Jenkins explains that the district attorney’s office has “lost hundreds of years of prosecutorial experience over the past two years” and “there is a lot of healing that needs to continue in this office.”
And while there have been reports of low morale and dysfunction within the DA’s office over the past year, there were conflicting reports that it was all exaggerated due to the efforts of recall activists. .
Jenkins says she will now face the task of uniting two disparate factions among the attorneys working in the district attorney’s office.
“The office has been split for some time now, between pre-Chesa staff and post-Chesa staff and we can’t operate that way anymore,” Jenkins told The Times. “We need to be an office, a team with an aligned mission, and that’s to make sure San Francisco is safe, and that we stand up for the victims.”
But how do you reconcile progressive ideals around social justice reform and getting tough on crime to a degree that “makes people feel safe.” Boudin didn’t seem like he could do it successfully, so how will Jenkins do it?
Mayor of London Breed said Thursday, announcing Jenkins’ appointment, that when it comes to holding criminals accountable and sticking to progressive ideals around incarceration, “we can and should have the two in a city like San Francisco”.
Jenkins told The Times, “To me, prosecutorial discretion is of paramount importance in a prosecutor’s office. So I think that while we have to be very mindful of the inequities of the system and how we can be fairer, we need to restore prosecutorial discretion.”
She also adds, “We need to work hard to deter whatever drives crime – whether it’s the pandemic, whether it’s lenient policies that criminals have become aware of.” And, she concedes, “I never blamed all the crimes on Chesa Boudin. No prosecutor can snap their fingers and eliminate all the crimes.”
When it comes to managing an entire office of prosecutors and investigators, Jenkins, 40, may not have much more experience than Boudin, who came from the public defender’s office. A colleague who resigned from Boudin’s office the same day as Jenkins, Donald du Bain, told the Chronicle: “She and I talked about our dissatisfaction with [Boudin’s] management in the summer of 2021.”
But as an unnamed “longtime former prosecutor” told Mission Local in Jenkins, she “never handled anything more than an intern.” As Mission Local puts it, regarding Breed’s “risky” choice of Jenkins, “replacing a young first-time manager with a young first-time manager raises questions.”
None of us can say how Jenkins will fare in the new role, or whether her personality or political skills will make her a better fit than Boudin — I don’t think many would say Boudin is a good politician. We only know that at one point two years ago, according to emails obtained by the Chronicle, she was very happy to work for Boudin and support his policies.
But Jenkins has repeatedly said she has great empathy for the families and relatives of homicide victims, and is passionate about holding perpetrators of violent crime accountable. At yesterday’s press conference announcing her appointment, Jenkins explained that she decided to become a prosecutor after the death of a son she had given birth to prematurely – which is a bit of an odd equivalence, but she explains that it gave him a deep empathy for parents who lost children to crime.
We know that a breaking point for Jenkins, vis-à-vis Boudin’s choices, came with the acceptance of a hung jury and the unwillingness to fight an insanity plea in a particular murder case. .
This case, which dated back to Easter 2020, involved a young mental patient living with his parents, Daniel Gudino, who killed his mother because he believed she was a cyborg. Several experts testified that Gudino suffered from serious mental illness, and the jury hung 7-5 in favor of pronouncing him legally insane. The jury nevertheless found him guilty of second degree murder and Gudino is now in a public mental hospital.
Jenkins, who was apparently rejected by her immediate boss and by Boudin in handling the case, then spoke to the examiner and said. “You just can’t ignore the victims in a case.” She added that she ‘would have been okay’ with the outcome had the jury not hung on to the issue of insanity, but left feeling Gudino was not held responsible for the murder . Jenkins was firmly on the side of Gudino’s stepfather, who opposed the insanity plea, but Gudino’s biological father supported him.
“I absolutely believe that [Gudino] was just mad at [his mother] for many years of thinking she wasn’t the type of mother he believed she should be,” Jenkins said of the affair.
Boudin has yet to say if he plans to run for office again in November, or if he could wait to run for a full term in 2023, or if he could just seek greener pastures.
We’ll see if Jenkins has better luck when it comes to the high-profile cases that land on his desk by November.
Related: Race to appoint Brooke Jenkins, face of recall ads, as Boudin’s replacement in DA’s office
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