Recent weeks have brought plenty of headaches for San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, including a scandal at the SFPD crime lab
and questions over her office's failure to disclose police officers' criminal pasts
. In this week's cover story, SF Weekly
reports on a longer-brewing problem: an alarming decline in felony trial convictions -- including homicide cases -- under the most recent two years on Harris' watch.
We report that Harris has won only 55 percent of murder trials since the beginning of 2009, and that in the first quarter of 2010 her office's conviction rate for all
felony trials was only 53 percent. By contrast, the most recent statewide average for prosecutors was 83 percent.
Last year, Harris' felony trial conviction rate
also fell below those of district attorneys handling criminal cases in California's 10 largest cities. (Data was not available for Sacramento, the state's seventh-largest city.) The story is based on statistics and trial records obtained from court officials and prosecutors in San Francisco and throughout the state.
Harris is currently the front-runner to become the Democratic nominee for state attorney general.
She has touted her overall conviction rates -- including plea deals
secured before trials, which can inflate the numbers significantly --
as evidence of her success fighting crime in San Francisco. A closer look at the performance of Harris' office -- and at some of the accused criminals who have gone free while she campaigns for statewide office -- shows that the truth is more complicated.
Read the full SF Weekly cover story on Harris' courtroom record.