Two and a half years later, San Francisco still hasn't prosecuted man for killing caught on video

I was pretty certain I wrote about this case more than two years ago but I can’t seem to find it. It involved an 84-year-old man in San Francisco named Vicha Ratanapakdee. Vicha was near his home taking his daily walk when a 19-year-old named Antoine Watson charged at him for no apparent reason and body slammed him into a concrete driveway. Vicha suffered a head injury from the impact and died two days later in the hospital.

All of this happened in January 2021. Watson was arrested a couple of days later. The killing made news around the country and sparked a real uptick in activism aimed at anti-Asian crimes in San Francisco. Ratanapakdee became known as “Grandpa Vicha” and was frequently pictured on posters carried by activists. Here’s the unveiling of a mural with his image from August 2021.

It took until June of 2022 before a judge ruled that Antoine Watson would face a murder trial despite his attorney’s attempt to knock the charge down to manslaughter.

More than 500 days after the incident, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Darwin ruled that the evidence presented by the District Attorney’s Office is enough for a murder trial.

A lawyer for Antoine Watson, the defendant, argued that the case should be charged as involuntary manslaughter because he had no intent to kill…

One of the key arguments prosecutors presented Friday was that the incident met the standard of “implied malice” required for a murder charge. Assistant District Attorney Sean Connolly said Watson was allegedly yelling, “What the f**k are you looking at?” before the push.

But defense attorney Anita Nabha challenged the idea that Watson’s statement was directed at the victim. She said Watson was in mental distress.

It had already been 500 days at that point. Here we are a full year later and there still hasn’t been a trial. His family is understandably angry.

“My father’s life was taken, and the court system has been painfully delayed,” Ratanapakdee’s daughter, Monthanus, said in a “Justice Delayed” rally in front of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice on Friday morning. “We want to come together today and have the power to make a change and demand fairness and justice.”

There’s a disagreement over who is responsible for the delay. Watson’s defense attorney blamed it on a backlog of cases that still exists from the pandemic. But prosecutors blame a defense strategy to drag this out as long as possible.

Monthanus believes the defense is using a tactic of running out the clock, trying to make witnesses’ memories fade with time. Prosecutors concur, placing responsibility for the delays squarely on Watson’s legal team.

“We continue to stand with Grandpa Vicha’s family in the pursuit of justice in this case,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins told The Standard. “In this case, the defense has continued to choose not to set the case for trial.”

Jenkins said the DA’s Office is ready to take the case to trial but the speed to “move through the criminal justice system is almost entirely controlled by the defense.”

Hopefully DA Jenkins can press to move this forward. A 2 1/2 year delay is more than long enough.

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