09 October 2009

TGIS: Thank God It's Schadenfreude! (240)

This week's joy in the misfortune of others comes courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Popehat) (from Thursday, October 8; link good at time of posting):
A San Francisco murder suspect's attorney sought assurances Wednesday that he would not be arrested for arranging what prosecutors called a "blatant act of witness intimidation" involving eight suspected gang members who stood up during a witness' testimony.


During the first day of the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, just as a star witness was asked whether she recognized anyone as responsible for Barrett's shooting, eight reputed gang members stood up in unison, crossed their arms and stared at the witness.

The witness - a Texas woman who was in San Francisco for a conference and with friends when she saw the 1 a.m. shooting - nonetheless identified Heard as the gunman.

Prosecutor Michael Swart vociferously objected that the eight men who stood up amounted to "blatant witness intimidation."

After the hearing, the eight men were arrested on suspicion of gang-related witness intimidation. It is not clear who ordered the arrests. No decision has been made as yet on whether the men will be formally charged.

Heard's attorney, Eric Safire, acknowledged Wednesday that he arranged the incident to possibly confuse the identification by the witness.

Safire then sought assurances from Judge Wallace Douglass and the prosecutor that he would be immune from prosecution. "Before I continue, I want a representation from the district attorney's office that I'm not going to be arrested," Safire said, adding that the men were "here at my request - I motioned for them to stand up."

He said the men's arrest created a "chilling effect on my ability to represent my client." He threatened to withdraw from the case.

"I can't guarantee that you won't be arrested," Douglass said. "The district attorney can arrest who he wants."


Brian Buckelew, a spokesman for the district attorney's office would not rule out charging Safire. "Our office is providing no such assurance."
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