SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Jury selection got underway on Wednesday in the spousal-abuse trial of San Francisco’s newly elected sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, despite failed efforts by the controversial lawman’s wife to vindicate him and have charges dropped.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong, in a sometimes heated hearing, rejected a request by an attorney for Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, to exclude a video in which she bared a bruise on her arm and said her husband inflicted it.
The short video was made after the couple got into an altercation on New Year’s Eve about her plans to take their 2-year-old son to visit her native Venezuela, where she is famous as a soap opera star, according to police and Mirkarimi’s attorney.
Mirkarimi was charged with domestic violence on January 13, five days after he was sworn in as the city’s first new sheriff in three decades.
He took office after a race in which he benefited from name recognition as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where he backed many liberal causes including environmental protection.
In the criminal case against him, Mirkarimi has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness.
Since appearing in the video made by her neighbor, the 36-year-old Lopez has sought to have the case against Mirkarimi dropped.
Lopez’s attorney, Paula Canny, argued on Wednesday that a 45-second video shot by neighbor Ivory Madison should be kept confidential as a privileged communication that was intended for a lawyer, not for dissemination to law enforcement.
Canny argued that Lopez came to Madison seeking legal advice about custody issues involving the couple’s son. “My client believed that Ivory Madison was an attorney,” she said.
Madison attended law school, according to a biography on her website. But she has not passed the California state bar exam.
Prosecutor Lindsey Hoopes responded that only the prosecution and the defense have a right to introduce motions in the trial, not the alleged victim. Wong agreed with prosecutors.
“The victim of the crime is not a party to the action,” he said, in dismissing the argument.
It was the second time this week Wong sided with prosecutors who want to use the video as evidence that Mirkarimi abused Lopez. On Monday, he denied a motion by Mirkarimi’s lawyers who said the footage should be excluded as hearsay evidence.
Wong also denied a request by Canny to dismiss the case as a sanction against the prosecutors for releasing to the news media still photos from the video.
Jury selection began on Wednesday with about 200 potential jurors brought to the courthouse. The process of finding 12 jurors for the trial will continue in the days ahead, with opening arguments slated for Tuesday, court spokeswoman Ann Donlan said.
Mirkarimi, 50, is a co-founder of the California Green Party, and in 2000 he worked on then-Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s campaign in California.
Editing By Alex Dobuzinskis and Cynthia Johnston