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Jurors’ doubts strengthen resolve for retrial

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The lawyer for the man convicted of slaying a San Francisco police officer said post-verdict conversations Thursday with some members of the jury have bolstered his resolve to seek a retrial.

Officer Isaac Espinoza was shot and killed with an AK-47 automatic rifle as he and his partner investigated a suspect in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. On Thursday, Espinoza’s killer, 23-year-old David Hill, was found guilty of second-degree murder with special circumstances, a verdict that will likely put him behind bars for life.

Hill’s lawyer, Martin Sabelli, told The Examiner on Friday that the fact that after nine days of deliberations the jury rejected a first-degree murder charge — reserved for a premeditated act of homicide — gives him reason to believe a new trial would result in a lesser sentence for his client.

“There were jurors who wanted to talk to us,” said Sabelli. “I don’t want to discuss what they said, but it’s given us a strong boost of confidence.”

A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said they wouldn’t comment specifically on a possible retrial for David Hill until the motion had been officially filed.

“Every defendant claims to have grounds for an appeal,” spokesman Bilen Mesfin said.

Justice was served and no retrial is needed, said Kevin Martin, vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

“I don’t think there are any outstanding circumstances of the trial that necessitate or begged for a new trial,” Martin said. “The evidence presented in the first case was overwhelming enough to get the conviction and the sentencing.”

Sabelli said some jurors told him that they didn’t have complete confidence in the testimony of Espinoza’s partner, who wasn’t questioned by the Police Department until nearly two days after the shooting.

“Memory’s a very fragile thing when it comes to a traumatic incident like this,” said Sabelli, who said he’ll wait until the Feb. 8 sentencing date before filing for a retrial.

Filing for a new trial is a fairly standard practice in serious cases, said UC Hastings law professor George Bisharat.

“In almost any trial, there are rulings that could be challenged,” said Bisharat.


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