|Bay Window: Presumed Guilty: Subject Biographies
Public Defender's Office
Jeff Adachi is one of San Francisco's highest-profile public defenders. Over the course of his 15-year career, Adachi has worked his way, case by case, from misdemeanors to homicides to the number-two position in the Public Defender's Office. He grew up in Sacramento, where his father was an auto mechanic and his mother, a laboratory assistant. He is a fourth generation Japanese American whose parents and grandparents were imprisoned in the U.S. internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. This experience had a huge impact on Adachi and is one of the main reasons he decided to become a public defender. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and Hastings Law School, is married and lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
Michele Forrar, a rookie attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, is depicted trying her sixth case after losing her first five. Forrar comes from an upper-middle-class conservative Republican family from Sacramento. Her father and family friends often ask her, "How can you defend those guilty people?" Forrar graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and attended the University of San Francisco Law School.
Will Maas is a war veteran who has tried rape and murder cases. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam, and he has fought and is winning his own personal battle against alcoholism. Maas grew up in a small farming town in Iowa and joined the Army at age 18. He became a paratrooper with the First Calvary Division and later served with the Eighty-Second Airborne Division in Vietnam. After the service, he graduated with a bachelor's and master's degree in English from the University of Iowa. Maas received his law degree from John F. Kennedy Law School and has been a public defender for over 15 years. He is married and has two children; one is a public defender in Solano County, California, and the other is a law student whose goal is to become a public defender.
Nigel Phillips is from Manchester, England. His father was a musician and played in strip clubs in Manchester, often taking Phillips with him to work. From what he observed at an early age, he became comfortable around a wide variety of people from all social classes, which he believes is valuable to his work now as an investigator. At age 18, he became a professional drummer and joined the Alarm, a popular 1980s British rock band. While touring around the world, Nigel played often in San Francisco and fell in love with the city. When he retired from the band, he settled in San Francisco and went to work as an investigator in the Public Defender's Office.
Stephen Rosen is a senior felony attorney, the de facto sage of the office, who is actively involved in teaching new public defenders the philosophy of a life dedicated to defending the poor. He graduated from the University of Arizona and received his law degree from Golden Gate University. Before joining the Public Defender's Office, he was chief counsel at Mission Community Legal Defense and worked for the Hunter's Point Community Defender, both community-based legal defense organizations. He is married and lives in San Francisco with his three sons.
Phoenix Streets is no exception to the rule that, for rookie public defenders, it is often "trial by fire." In his first six months, he has tried a dozen misdemeanor cases, all in the courtroom of a stern, arbitrary, and at times combative judge. Streets grew up in the small southern town of Beebe, Arkansas, where he and members of his family were victims of racist attacks. These experiences became a motivating factor in Street's desire to become a public defender. Street enlisted in the Navy, served four years as a communications expert, and later attended the University of California at Berkeley on the G.I. Bill. He went on to graduate from Hastings Law School in San Francisco.
Charge: First-Degree Murder
Crime: Killing a Tenderloin gang boss
Possible Sentence: 35 years to life
As a young boy, Lam Choi was separated from his parents during a chaotic moment boarding refugee boats in the South China Sea as his family fled Cambodia. Lam never saw his parents again. Eventually, he made his way to San Francisco, where he was raised by an aunt and uncle in the Tenderloin district. This area of the city is known for its street gangs, drugs and prostitution. At the age of 17, Choi was arrested for the execution-style murder of a Vietnamese gang boss.
Charge: Concealed Weapon
Crime: Carrying a revolver in her bag
Possible Sentence: One year
Once a beautiful young Icelandic blonde, Larusdottir was left scarred, fragile and alcoholic after years of domestic violence. She was arrested for illegally possessing an unlicensed handgun on the steps of the courthouse. She claims she was bringing the gun to turn in to the authorities.
Charge: Murder for Hire
Crime: Police say Marcos walked into a trendy hair salon and shot the owner dead.
Possible Sentence: Life without the possibility of parole
A Mexican national, Rangel is, like many others who crossed the border into the United States, looking for a better life for himself and his family back home. Police claim that he was the triggerman in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the death of a popular hair salon owner.
Charge: Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance (crack cocaine)
Crime: Appearing to be under the influence of drugs
Possible Sentence: 4 months
At 7:45 a.m. two officers arrested Robinson because he appeared to be high. Mayor Brown had declared a need to "clean up the streets," so there was a higher scrutiny for people under the influence of a controlled substance in public. Robinson claims his "crime" was being tired and African-American on a street corner known for illegal drug activity in the Mission District.
* These descriptions are culled from the defendants' own words and information given to their public defenders.