In the trial against Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, jurors took six days to decide that he was not guilty on murder and manslaughter charges. For quadruple homicide suspect Binh Luc, the jury took seven to conclude he was guilty. But not all cases take juries that long — last Thursday, a jury deliberated just 10 minutes before announcing they had a verdict. Darryl J’Eronn, 52, was acquitted on charges of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. The case, the Public Defender’s Office claims, was an injustice to begin with.
J’Eronn was arrested at the Fairfax Hotel — a supportive veterans housing facility in the Tenderloin — in late March, after an alleged confrontation with his next door neighbor.
The duo had been on bad terms for a while, with J’Eronn claiming that the man repeatedly threatened him. He filed grievances against the neighbor in vain, and the situation got worse. A fight broke out in mid-March after the neighbor threatened J’Eronn with a knife; he responded with a pellet gun. In the end, both men were booked for possessing a weapon, but charges weren’t filed. At this point, J’Eronn asked for a restraining order, telling police, “I am afraid he will attack and kill me.”
On March 21, J’Eronn’s neighbor punched him in the face twice on the sidewalk outside the hotel. He responded defensively, and after knocking the neighbor to the ground, attempted to flag down a police car. But when police arrived, J’Eronn was arrested.
The trial was an emotional one, with five hotel employees and one resident taking the stand to describe Jeronn as a “kind, reasonable, quiet man who avoided conflict at all cost.”
J’Eronn also took the stand — a rare step for someone accused of a crime. He cried describing the fear of living near his neighbor. He lost his spot at the Fairfax Hotel. After 13 years of being on the waiting list for Section 8 rental assistance, he became eligible, only to be disqualified during his incarceration.
The lack of evidence and testimony of witnesses convinced the jury in the end. Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon said many jurors hugged J’Eronn after the verdict, and several came forward to blast the fact that the case even went to trial.
“I was shocked as to why we were even having this trial,” juror Angela Wisco said after the case concluded. “Darryl had been doing everything he could to avoid this man for basically a year, even applying for a restraining order, and then he’s arrested when defending himself against an attack on his life. I thought, why is he the one being charged?”
Another juror, Dr. Anne Fabiny, agreed. “I was angered the defendant had been arrested, jailed and charged with a crime and that the district attorney’s office had pursued the case,” she said. “The conduct of the San Francisco Police Department was lazy, sloppy, and I daresay racist. Taxpayer money was wasted, and so was the time of numerous people.
“Although the defendant was found not guilty on all counts, he did not receive justice,” she added.