In August, 2000, Brian Robinson was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department's Drug Awareness Response Team (DART) for being high on crack cocaine. If convicted he faced a mandatory sentence: a year in jail.
The DART had been created by Mayor Willie Brown's administration during San Francisco's booming dot-com days, in an effort, according to Mayor Brown's news appearances during the period, to rid the streets of addicts and the homeless, and make the city more attractive to visitors. One of DART's goals was to pick up individuals on the street who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Brian Robinson was held in custody in the San Francisco county jail charged with being high on crack cocaine. He was held without bail because he had not shown up for a previous court date on a different charge.
In October of 2000, a high profile news exposé was published on drug activity in the city of San Francisco. The Mayor began to openly criticize the district attorney's office as being lax on prosecuting drug and prostitution cases. District Attorney Terence Hallinan responded in part by rebutting the claims and restructuring his department. In this climate of increased attention and mounting pressure to get tough on drug-related crime, defendant Brian Robinson's case went to trial.
Public Defender Michele Forrar's legal strategy was to persuade the jury to empathize with Brian Robinson as the accused perpetrator of a "victimless" crime that the district attorney was unable to prove. She also argued that arresting people for looking "high" or "sleepy" was a fundamental violation of civil rights. She encouraged the jury to "beware," because, according to her, what happened to the defendant could happen to anyone.
The jury returned a verdict of not guilty. It was Michele Forrar's first victory as a public defender.
After Robinson was acquitted, he disappeared into the streets of San Francisco.
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