by Valerie Ibarra
San Francisco – A San Francisco jury deliberated for five hours on Oct. 27 and returned a verdict of not guilty on all counts for a man who was falsely accused of committing three unsolved burglaries in April 2020. Deputy Public Defender Yali Corea-Levy represented Eric Forks in this case in which Mr. Forks had hard proof that he was not the culprit, yet he was forced to wait 17 months for his day in court due to the court’s refusal to open up trial courtrooms to full capacity.
In April 2020, three burglaries happened over the course of two days. Two hours after the third burglary, Mr. Forks – who regularly looks for discarded items on the street – was driving by and saw someone he knew standing with a TV that Mr. Forks ended up taking home.
Because his car was seen on surveillance picking up the TV, which had actually been stolen from one of the properties on that block, police traced his license plate and arrested him at his home where they did not find any of the other items reportedly stolen. He was charged with a misdemeanor for receipt of stolen property, but also charged with five felonies related to the burglaries.
The problem with the police’s theory of the case was that Mr. Forks, who was on probation at the time, was wearing a GPS ankle monitor – a 24-hour surveillance device attached to his body – and none of the data placed him at the scene of the crimes at the time of the burglaries. No one else has been charged for these crimes.
Mr. Forks had hard proof that he was not the culprit, yet he was forced to wait 17 months for his day in court.
“It was terrifying to see how bad coincidences can make a completely innocent person look guilty and how much power the criminal legal system can wield over someone who is already in a vulnerable position,” said Mr. Corea-Levy.
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju said, “Mr. Forks has had these serious charges hanging over his head for nearly a year and a half, and the jury took less than a day to review all the evidence and acquit him. San Francisco Superior Court needs to open up more courtrooms for jury trials because there are hundreds of people, both in and out of custody, whose rights to a speedy trial are being violated and who are suffering under the stress of waiting for their trial.”
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju filed a lawsuit on Sept. 14, 2021, against the SF Superior Court demanding that they open more trial courtrooms for juries to hear criminal cases.
The defense team in this case included Deputy Public Defender Yali Corea-Levy, Investigator Fanny Suarez, Paralegal Rod Ciferi and Intern Daniela Muehleisen.