Mirkarimi Trial Could Move Out of SF

The trial of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi may be moved out of San Francisco.

By Traci Grant and Lori Preuitt
|  Monday, Mar 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:43 PM PDT
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Mirkarimi Trial Could Move Out of SF

AP

Eliana Lopez and Ross Mirkarimi leave San Francisco City Hall

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Things did not go Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's way in pre-trial hearings Monday.

Mirkarimi faces misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness for allegedly grabbing and bruising the arm of his wife, Eliana Lopez, in front of their son on New Year's Eve. 

Judge Garrett Wong ruled Mirkarimi's ex-girlfriend Christina Flores' story will be part of the  domestic violence trial.

The ruling is seen as a win for prosecutor Elizabeth Aguilar-Tarchi who argued that the testimony establishes a pattern of abusive behavior for Mirkarimi and his "propensity to commit acts of domestic violence against his female partners."

Wong decided to open the previously confidential proceedings to the media Monday afternoon to see Flores testify about three incidents of alleged verbal abuse and one incident in which she claims Mirkarimi grabbed her with such force that it left a bruise on her upper arm.    

Flores described Mirkarimi as a womanizer with a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality and a lot of rage.    

"There was a very good and very bad," Flores said on the stand Monday. "He's a very good person on one hand and then it snaps."

The defense unsuccessfully tried to prove that since Flores had not told anyone about the physical attack before Mirkarimi's January arrest that she had only come forward as a way to get revenge for their failed, tumultuous relationship.  That argument failed to sway the judge.

Monday was supposed to be jury selection for the trial, but that was delayed by other pre-trial wrangling.

Mirkarimi's lawyer asked the judge on Monday for a change in venue due to pre-trial publicity.

The judge did not make an immediate ruling on the matter.

District Attorney George Gascon told the Chronicle that his office is reviewing the request and has yet to take a position.

“The first concern is that the defendant needs to have a fair trial. Part of having a fair trial is to make sure we have a jury that is unbiased. And if that’s what it takes, then we’ll do so,” Gascon told the paper.

And that is not the only wrinkle in the case.

Potential jurors were sent home Monday because of developments involving documents filed by Eliana Lopez's lawyer on Friday that could delay the start of the trial.

Attorney Paula Canny asked the San Francisco appellate to hear the arguments that Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong shot down last week.

Canny is attempting to get a videotape, in which Lopez displays bruises that were allegedly inflicted on her during a New Year's Eve argument, barred from evidence.

The Appellate court says it needs additional briefing and until then the videotape, which Canny believes should be confidential because of attorney/client privilege, should not be shown to the jury.

That could possibly delay the start of the entire trial, which was tentatively scheduled to begin on Wednesday, because the District Attorney's may not want to move forward until they know whether this key piece of evidence will be included in the trial.

"We have asserted a right to a speedy trial and Mirkarimi has pushed that forward," said Lidia Stiglich, the Sheriff's attorney as she emerged from this morning's hearing with he judge to discuss the impact on the trial.

The D.A's office has not commented on the new developments, but it has until Wednesday to submit opposing arguments about the Canny's documents and then a ruling could possibly be made on Friday.

Thirty-four of the 185 remaining prospective jurors were dismissed Monday based on their answers to a jury selection questionnaire in which jurors had to answer whether they had already discussed the well-publicized case, developed an opinion about his innocence or guilt and had experience with domestic violence. The rest of the prospective jurors are expected to return tomorrow for more selection."

 "The judge went in and explained to jurors that he's trying to make the trial go as quickly as possible," Superior court spokesman Ann Donlan said. "It's a day-by-day process with the things that are turning up this week."

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