San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, shown here at a November press conference, was elected in November 2019 on a platform of criminal justice reform. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, shown here at a November press conference, was elected in November 2019 on a platform of criminal justice reform. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Chesa Boudin responds to critics in first ‘State of Justice’ address

Under fire and facing a potential recall effort, DA remains ‘steadfast’ in committment to reform

In his first “State of Justice” address Thursday, District Attorney Chesa Boudin attempted to assuage fears about the perception of rising crime in San Francisco while responding to those who seek to “roll back” his reform-minded policies.

A year after taking office, Boudin finds himself under fire for what’s seen as a revolving door of suspects shuffling in and out of County Jail, most notably in the case of Troy McAlister, a man who authorities say struck and killed two women with a stolen vehicle after prosecutors declined to charge him on numerous occasions.

But Boudin reminded the public in his address that overall crime dropped by nearly a quarter overall across San Francisco in 2020, despite increases in homicides, burglaries and other property crimes. Boudin said his office makes hundreds of charging decisions every day, most of which “will never be scrutinized” or “lead to viral tweets or salacious newspaper headlines.”

“But they are the bread and butter of what we do,” Boudin said in the address, streamed over Facebook live. “We are bound by duty, by ethics and by law to resist the calls to lock up every single person for as long as possible. Our movement will not allow tragedies to be exploited by fearmongers determined to roll back criminal justice reforms that promote equity, efficiency and safety.”

Boudin is facing outrage on social media and the beginnings of a recall effort over his handling of the McAlister case and the deaths of Hanako Abe, 27, and Elizabeth Platt, 60. He is even the subject of an unusual effort by an angel investor seeking to raise $75,000 to hire an “investigative journalist” to cover his office.

A former deputy public defender, Boudin was elected in November 2019 on a platform of reducing mass incarceration and holding police accountable in the face of heavy opposition from law enforcement groups. He served his first year in office amid a pandemic that has fundamentally changed life in San Francisco, closing storefronts and forcing residents to shelter at home.

His first year also came at a time when the nation paid closer attention to racial injustices and police misconduct following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Among the accomplishments Boudin listed in his address were reducing the jail population to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak and filing or securing charges against three officers for shooting or beating suspects.

“I remain steadfast in my commitment to dismantling racist practices and building a legal system that respects the poor, empowers the oppressed and treats no one as above the law,” Boudin said.

Looking forward, Boudin said his office is facing budget cuts of up to 10 percent that threaten to further impact already overburdened prosecutors, who have largely been unable to take cases to trial because of the pandemic. “Whenever the pandemic ends, we will have a historic backlog in our courts,” Boudin said.

The City is also in the midst of skyrocketing overdose deaths, primarily from the drug fentanyl. Without offering numbers, Boudin said his office prosecutes the majority of drug cases that result in arrests, but “prosecutions alone cannot fix this problem.”

“We need public health interventions,” he said.

Bay Area NewsCrimePoliticssan francisco news

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Basketball (Shutterstock)
SI alum Begovich gets his moment, but Stanford falls on Senior Day

MAPLES PAVILION — Generally speaking, Stanford’s home finale on Saturday afternoon, a… Continue reading

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a former school board member, has been asked to help secure an agreement between the school district and teacher’s union. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisor Walton tapped to mediate teacher contract talks

District and union at odds over hours in-person students should be in the classroom

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Most Read