Judge Van Aken agreed with the prosecutor that because attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office had represented Polk in past cases, the office cannot now represent the man charged with his murder.
The judge said Polk’s previous public defenders could have confidential information about Polk that could be shared with the public defense attorney representing Epps in his self-defense case.
The judge said it’s possible some attorneys in the office could have “intimate, domestic” information relating to conflicts between the Epps and Polk households.
CBS SF Bay Area has reported Epps was married to Polk’s former wife.
Even if no information was shared, Van Aken said there could be a “significant public perception” of a conflict of interest, especially given the notoriety of the case.
Van Aken said the city’s new public defender, Manohar "Mano" Raju, "heightened" that notoriety by appearing with the defendant during his initial appearance before the court last week.
In an emailed statement, Danielle Harris with the Public Defender's Office, said:
"The state is obligated to provide Mr. Epps’ counsel with anything and everything that it has in its possession that speaks to any violent history or violent tendencies related to Marcus Polk. Those violent tendencies are the crux of Mr. Epps’ defense and that information needs to be provided by the state, if it honors its ethical obligations. The fact that Mano Raju — our new public defender — personally appeared for Mr. Epps is neither here nor there.
Mr. Epps deserves his day in court to show that the District Attorney was right over two-and-a-half years ago when they decided they couldn’t overcome the facts supporting his self-defense claim. Nothing has changed."
If the Public Defender's Office loses its appeal, the court will appoint a defense attorney to represent Epps.
The courtroom was crowded with family and supporters of the acclaimed filmmaker, known for his documentaries, including "Straight Outta Hunters Point" and "Rap Dreams." Epps’ mother ran from the courtroom in tears following the judge’s decision.