The veteran homicide prosecutor put in 23 years trying cases in San Francisco before moving to the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office in 2002. He has tried 50 murder cases, been involved in hundreds of investigations and, remarkably, has never had a jury acquit a defendant. He also regularly collaborates with crime novelists.
Which cases can’t you forget? For a brief time I was involved with the Night Stalker case in San Francisco. That was about as shocking as it gets. I’ve prosecuted cases involving children. Those are terrible crimes that always stay with you. Sometimes the victims’ families are people who stay with you. I’ve had victims who died full of drugs with a gun in their hand, but their families have suffered such a tremendous loss you can’t help but empathize with them.
Has dealing with murder day in and day out affected your view of human nature? No, I think I have the right temperament for the job. I’ve always been aware there is good and bad in the world. It was not a shock to me that there were horrible people or that good people sometimes do horrible things.
What do you enjoy about collaborating with authors? Murder, in real life, can be very mundane. Sometimes it can be as simple as two people feuding and it finally boils over, or a liquor-store robbery gone wrong. It’s terrible, it’s tragic, but it’s simple.
What drew you to homicide? All kinds of people commit murder. It cuts across society. On Monday you can have a domestic-violence homicide, the next day a gang killing, the next day a robbery homicide and the next day a psychiatric homicide. It’s a challenge, and the variety keeps it interesting.