by #FreeKevinEpps contributor
San Francisco – Award winning filmmaker Kevin Epps appeared in court again on Tuesday, June 11, as his defense attorney continued to chip away at what the District Attorney’s Office initially described as “strong new evidence” that prompted them to charge him with murder.
Epps was arrested on May 7 for an incident in which he claimed self-defense in 2016. He was taken into custody then and subsequently not charged following the shooting death of a home intruder, 45-year-old Marcus Polk.
Prior to Epps’s court hearing on June 11, it was not clear to the public what “strong new evidence” might exist against him other than a newly generated three-dimensional (3-D) forensic report of the alleged crime scene. Portions of Epps’s arrest warrant were sealed from the public, and statements in the warrant contributed toward Judge Christine Van Aken denying him bail.
Tuesday’s hearing began, once again, with updates on the status of discovery materials to be provided by Assistant District Attorney John Rowland after numerous requests by the defense for copies of the prosecution’s witness interviews and the full 3-D forensic report.
As a part of the discovery process, Epps’s defense attorney, Mark Vermeulen explained to the court that in a February 2019 recording, SFPD’s Sergeant Alan Levy stated to a witness he was interviewing that a forensic report already existed that defeated the claim of self-defense by Epps.
Vermeulen asked the court to have the prosecution clarify the nature of this forensic evidence to which Levy was referring and to further provide this evidence to the defense. This request was supported by Van Aken. Rowland was not able to say what that evidence was and blithely replied to the court that he will “certainly look into it.”
Interestingly, the 3-D forensic report that the prosecution has been slow to provide in full was created in March, after this witness interview took place by Sgt. Levy. This, and all evidence that the prosecution is using against Epps, should have been made available to the defense long before this last hearing, the seventh for Epps since his first court appearance on May 8.
The next stage of this same hearing involved a motion filed by the prosecution for ex parte communication in Van Aken’s chambers to request a ruling to conceal the location of this same witness and her two children, who were minor children in 2016, from the defense.
Van Aken denied the ex parte motion and the defense was allowed in chambers to hear and respond to the argument by Rowland. This witness for the prosecution has apparently amended her statement from 2016 and now says that she is fearful of retaliation by Epps. Therefore, the D.A. is seeking her protection by the court.
Van Aken will make her final ruling in July as to her location being kept from the defense. Van Aken expressed that she is inclined to rule in favor of the defense, presumably because she does not find the witness’s fears of Epps to be legally compelling.
Individuals who are close to Epps, and familiar with the witness, believe that the witness is seeking to “cash in on money” from the state’s Victims of Crime program for herself and her children. A family member of Epps concluded, “If there’s no crime [by Kevin], then there’s no money for her to collect as a victim.”
As it stands, Kevin Epps has been denied representation by the Office of the San Francisco Public Defender in favor of the prosecution’s claim of a conflict of interest (the Public Defender has represented the alleged victim in the past). He has been denied bail based upon what look to be fabricated fears of a witness, who for two and half years has not voiced any fear of Epps. This witness may also be seeking to collect monetary compensation for herself and her children by the state if Epps can be convicted of murder.
It is the opinion of this writer and sources within the legal community that the charges by the D.A. against Epps should be dropped or the case should be dismissed based on the very weak evidence that the prosecution is presenting. If the case does go to trial, the likelihood of an acquittal or mistrial seems extremely high.
Hopefully the damage by the D.A. to Epps and his family will not be permanent. Despite his immense work in the community, stellar personal and professional reputations and the lack of strong evidence against him, he has been in custody without bail for over 40 days at the time of this report.
Kevin Epps deserves to put the trauma of 2016 behind him and his family. His community will be best served as he is able to freely continue to be a voice and advocate for the people of Bayview Hunters Point, and beyond.
Epps and his community will continue the fight for his freedom. The D.A. has created new evidence against him, as in newly fabricated, and the evidence that the public is now seeing looks to be anything but strong.
The preliminary trial for Epps is set for Thursday, July 11, 9:00 a.m., in Department 20 at 850 Bryant, San Francisco.
Timeline of the case
September 2016: Marcus Polk unlawfully enters Epps’s home. Epps fatally shoots Polk and claims that he did so in self defense. Epps is taken into custody, but no charges are filed by the D.A. due to insufficient evidence. Then Supervisor London Breed remarked, “It’s unfortunate that if there’s insufficient evidence I don’t understand why he was taken into custody in the first place. He has a reputation, and I hope this doesn’t create any challenges for him. … I just wish it was handled differently.”
September 2016 – present: Epps continues his work in the San Francisco Bay Area as a filmmaker, producer and artist. He is also raising two young children, supporting his college age daughter and providing post-surgical care for his mother.
February 2019: A witness to the shooting in 2016 is interviewed by the District Attorney’s Office and states that she is afraid and fearful of Epps despite stating that he has not threatened nor contacted her, respectively. The interviewing officer, who is also an investigator, tells this witness that evidence defeating Epps’s claim of self-defense already exists.
March 2019: A three-dimensional forensic modeling report is produced for the prosecution.
May 1: A sealed arrest warrant is issued for Epps.
May 7: Epps is arrested.
May 8: Epps makes his first court appearance with a motion to disallow him to be represented by the Office of the Public Defender due to Epps’s assets at the time of his arrest and a conflict of interest by the office due to their past representation of the alleged victim, Marcus Polk.
May 10: Second court appearance was to argue for Epps to be represented by the Office of the Public Defender. Bail was denied despite over 60 letters of support for Epps from the Bay Area arts and activist communities.
May 13: At his third court appearance, Epps is denied representation by the Office of the Public Defender. Conflict counsel is appointed.
May 29: Epps makes his fourth court appearance, now represented by conflict counsel, defense attorney Mark Vermeulen.
May 29: At the fourth court hearing, Epps’s June 3 arraignment is delayed. The defense asks for discovery materials from the D.A. and the return of Epps’s personal possessions. The defense did not file motions for these items; therefore, Judge Van Aken acted as arbitrator because there are no motions to rule on. The defense will begin to file motions for discovery items and the return of Epps’s personal possessions.
June 6: At the fifth and sixth court hearings, a preliminary hearing is set for July 11, and updates are provided on the status of discovery.
June 11: Epps’s seventh court appearance began with updates on the status of discovery materials. Related to the discovery, Vermeulen explained to the court that in the February interview of a key witness for the prosecution, Sgt. Alan Levy of the SFPD stated that a forensic report existed that defeats the claim of self-defense by Epps. Vermeulen asked the court to order the prosecution to clarify and provide this report to which Levy referred. The 3-D forensic report was created in March, the month after this interview took place.
What you can do to free Kevin Epps
To support filmmaker Kevin Epps, please make as generous a donation as you can and spread the word; go to https://www.gofundme.com/x48br-free-kevin-epps.