The state Court of Appeal found that now-DA Brooke Jenkins committed prosecutorial misconduct in a 2021 homicide case against Daniel Gudino, the last case she tried for District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office before very publicly resigning and working for his recall campaign.
Gudino was found guilty of brutally murdering his mother. In the second part of the trial, a judge found Gudino not guilty by insanity after the jury was split on the issue. Jenkins later told the Chronicle that the agreement was reached, behind her back, by Boudin. The Court of Appeal’s ruling this month does not affect the outcome of Gudino’s trial or his sentencing.
A three-judge panel declined to reverse Gudino’s conviction or move to free him, in a case handled not by the San Francisco Public Defender but by Court of Appeal-appointed attorney Jean Matulis of Cambria.
But it did rule that Jenkins committed prosecutorial misconduct during the initial 2021 trial. At issue was her closing argument, which impugned the integrity of the defense and improperly made reference to excluded pieces of evidence.
Jenkins, per the Court of Appeal ruling, claimed the defense did not aim to “seek justice or to tell the truth about what happened,” and instead that their “obligation is to their client; and by any means necessary they seek to have him acquitted of these charges.”
The appeals court ruled that this constitutes misconduct on Jenkins’ behalf, as it is improper to “imply that counsel is free to deceive the jury.” Still, it found that, while potentially punishable under state law, this misconduct did not alter the outcome of the case.
In an Aug. 29 statement, Jenkins said, “I recognize that defense counsel plays an important role in our criminal justice system, and zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients is essential to a well-functioning criminal justice system.”
Jenkins also implied to the jury in 2021 that the defense excluded Gudino’s mother’s testimony, because doing so would make their case stronger, saying “We all know that [Gudino’s mother] can’t take that stand. Everything that [she] ever said has been excluded from this trial.” In actuality, Beatriz Mero Gudino’s testimony was not included because she was, of course, dead before the trial began. The appeals court found this implication to be misleading and improper.
The appeals court concedes that Jenkins’ behavior was “improper, but collateral” in the case, and that the judgment was probably unaffected by her misconduct.
After this 2021 trial, Jenkins left then-DA Boudin’s office, and spoke about it in an interview for a Chronicle exclusive, which greatly increased Jenkins’ visibility.
Ilona Solomon Yañez, Gudino’s public defender, wrote a far less widely read response in the Davis Vanguard, claiming that the Chronicle column misconstrued the case and Jenkins’ conduct, and rejected its description of Jenkins as “progressive.”
A report by the San Francisco Standard subsequently found that Jenkins was paid by organizations tied to Boudin’s recall, even though she described herself to the Chronicle as a “volunteer.”
This isn’t the first time Jenkins has been accused of wrongdoing, or even the first time accusations were affirmed by a state body. Prior to this month’s ruling of misconduct by the state Court of Appeal, the outcome of a 2014 trial was overturned in 2016 by the San Francisco Superior Court after Jenkins committed a Griffin error. That’s when a prosecutor improperly comments on a defendant’s decision to exercise their right to avoid self-incrimination.
In 2021, Jenkins emailed a colleague the rap sheet of a defendant, which is also a misdemeanor crime in California. And in 2022, retired San Francisco Superior Court judge Martha Goldin filed a complaint to the state Bar that Jenkins violated rules of ethics, including a claim that she lied about having committed misconduct when she first took office.