Home » Blog » Constitutional Law » Wrongfully arrested public defender Jami Tillotson will not be prosecuted

Wrongfully arrested public defender Jami Tillotson will not be prosecuted

Call Us: 703-383-1100

As I blogged twelve days ago, on January 27, 2015, San Francisco police wrongfully arrested Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson for doing her job in protecting her client against police trying to photograph him in the courthouse.

On February 4, 2015, San Francisco’s police chief announced that Ms. Tillotson will not be prosecuted.

Praised be San Francisco’s elected public defender Jeff Adachi for standing behind Ms. Tillotson. While at first blush, his support may sound like a given, do not automatically expect elected chief public defenders to take such firm stands for justice, as having " told the Police Commission he is outraged and disappointed over the arrest and the department’s response to the incident. [Adachi] ‘made it clear that what we wanted was an apology… Instead, there was a public statement saying that what they did was completely justified,’” reports KQED news.

SFGate.com reports on the police chief’s non-apologetic apology: Police chief "Suhr apologized ‘for any distress Ms. Tillotson suffered as a result of her detention,’ but he stood by the actions of Sgt. Brian Stansbury and the other officers who arrested the lawyer.

In response, Ms. Tillotson said in part: “My client, a young African American man, was left without the benefit of advice of counsel. The right to counsel is not a formality. It is a shield that protects ordinary people against intimidation, bullying, and overreach by law enforcement."

Thanks to San Francisco’s Police Commission members who are showing how seriously they are taking Ms. Tillotson’s arrest. Putting it bluntly enough, commission member Petra DeJesus said an inquiry is needed about whether the police have adequate policies about detaining suspects when their lawyers are present, adding "we can’t go around arresting attorneys." Commission Vice President Julius Turman acknowledged the need for police not to violate the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to counsel to criminal suspects.

Ms. Tillotson has filed a complaint with the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints; the detailed complaint is here. Thanks again to Jami Tillotson for standing up for her client and against this police misconduct.