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Public Defender’s ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ takes aim at bias in the legal system

July 21, 2010

by Tamara Barak Aparton

A frame from the video “Innocent Until Proven Guilty,” produced by Tom Donald Films for San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, shows how racial profiling by the public and police can make an innocent young Black father a suspect. - Video frame: Tom Donald Films for San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi
San Francisco – An African American man runs through the streets of San Francisco, prompting wary glances from onlookers. As he reaches his home and scoops up his smiling toddler in a hug, a police siren wails. “Show me your hands,” commands a voice off-camera.

The 30-second video, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty,” was created pro bono by Tom Donald Films for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. The PSA is part of a national campaign launched by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office to remind people of their constitutional right of presumed innocence.

Jeff Adachi introduces “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”:

“People should be judged by character, not color,” San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. “In this PSA we are trying to get people to reflect about their own possible biases and racial profiling. It’s a reminder that nationality, race or sexual orientation doesn’t matter – everyone has a right to be judged individually.”

Watch “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”:

Adachi decided to launch the campaign, a series of high-profile studies and news reports, including:

• An analysis of arrest data in San Francisco’s prostitution stings, SF Weekly’s “Stung,” published June 16, 2010, found that Latino men may be unfairly targeted and that some men are being cited without agreeing to sex.

• A string of violent incidents in the Bay Area earlier this year that ignited tensions between the area’s Asian and African American communities.

• A comprehensive study of racial bias in jury selection by the Equal Justice Initiative, “Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection: A Continuing Legacy,” published June 10, 2010, found widespread evidence of discrimination aimed at keeping minorities off of juries in the U.S., with prosecutors asserting pretextual reasons to justify their removal.

Tamara Barak Aparton, Communications and Policy Assistant in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, can be reached at Tamara.Aparton@sfgov.org.

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