Charges dropped in San Francisco self-defense trial

The right of self-defense is, generally, about as non-controversial as you can get. Even vehement anti-gunners will often acknowledge that you do indeed have a right to defend yourself from violent attacks. They want to make it harder for you to do so, but they won’t actually say they oppose the right to do so.

But acting in self-defense may cause issues for you. Sometimes it’s not clear from the outside what happened and you may end up on trial.

And, if you’re in San Francisco, you may well end up on trial even when the evidence is pretty damn clear.

San Francisco prosecutors announced Sept. 8 they have dismissed all charges against 32-year-old Nelson Hernandez-DeLeon, who his public defender “acted in defense of his friend during a fight outside a Mission District bar on Sept. 17, 2021 – Omar Cureno, 34, died in the fight.

“I want to thank our defense team for vigorously defending Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon. You are true warriors for our clients,” said elected San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “This is another case that demonstrates how critical it is for the San Francisco Superior Court to catch up with other jurisdictions and open more courts for trial.”

In a trial that began in March of 2022, a jury acquitted Hernandez-DeLeon of first-degree murder late last month, voting 10-2 to acquit him of second-degree murder. Prosecutors subsequently offered Hernandez-DeLeon a plea to a lesser charge, but he declined. Now, all charges are dismissed.

“Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon was out catching up with old friends that night. He was not intoxicated, and he certainly was not looking for a fight,” said Deputy Public Defender Ilona Solomon.

The defense attorney added, “Mr. Cureno, according to his own friend, was extremely intoxicated, very angry, and looking for a fight when he approached my client. Mr. Cureno put brass knuckles on and accused Mr. Hernandez-DeLeon and his friend of laughing at him. Video evidence shows that Hernandez-DeLeon did not take out his work utility knife until after Mr. Cureno struck him three times in the head with brass knuckles.

If the video evidence showed what Soloman claims–and it sure looks like it did–then how did this even end up at trial in the first place?

For one thing, brass knuckles are illegal to buy, sell, or own under California law. Whether they should be or not isn’t relevant just now, only the fact that they are.

So you have a gun attack someone else with a deadly and illegal weapon, strike them multiple times with said deadly weapon, then you prosecute the victim when he uses a lawful tool that can be used as a weapon to defend himself?

And understand, this isn’t all that isolated. We also have a case earlier this year when the Oakland police chief basically said he prefers people to be victims good witnesses over acting in self-defense.

Yes, something stinks in the Bay Area and it’s not just the fecal matter all over the sidewalks.

Luckily, in this case, justice was clearly served and a man acting in self-defense is free today. However, there’s no reason I can see why it should have come down to this in the first place.