SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins unveiled a new policy on Tuesday that allows prosecutors to charge older teens as adults if they are accused of committing "heinous" crimes.
The policy is a departure from former District Attorney Chesa Boudin's approach that banned the prosecution of teens as adults under any circumstance.
Under Jenkin's policy, prosecutors have the option to transfer cases involving 16 and 17-year-olds out of juvenile court if the defendants are accused of committing egregious acts that "shock the conscience of the community," including murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, torture, kidnappings and aggravated mayhem.
Jenkins said before a teen is charged as an adult, the case must be evaluated by the newly formed Juvenile Review Team in her office.
"Juveniles of color have been disproportionately charged as adults in the American criminal justice system. We must always presume that our justice-involved youth should remain in the juvenile justice system where they have access to supportive services," the district attorney said in a tweet. "I also have to recognize that as a DA’s office we must retain prosecutorial discretion to ensure that we protect the public and deliver justice in our most serious and egregious cases that is fair and proportional."
The Juvenile Review Team will consider all facts of the case and hear from the defense and victim's family before making a recommendation to the district attorney.
Jenkins will make the final decision whether to move the case out of juvenile court. Her office would then a file a petition for a juvenile's case to be transferred to adult court, and that decision would be up to a judge.
Reaction to Jenkins' policy announcement was mixed.
"Adult prosecution of children has always been applied in a very racist way, both in San Francisco and elsewhere," said Yoel Haile, director of the criminal justice program the ACLU of Northern California. "Black and Latino youths are significantly more likely to be prosecuted as adults than their white peers."
KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said Jenkins "is coming in and saying, ‘No, we are going to do what every other DA’s office does and that is charge juveniles as adults when it's appropriate."