SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The death of Joey Hernandez in a nightclub brawl over a decade ago is reportedly San Francisco’s oldest open homicide case, but his family says the way the case has been handled over the years has been a crime in itself.
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By all accounts, Joey Hernandez had a bright future. The fourth year medical student was liked and admired. But on Jan 9th, 2011, he was dancing with friends at Temple, a nightclub in San Francisco, when he got caught in the middle of a barfight.
Hernandez was struck in the head with some kind of object and hit the floor. Two days later, he died. The suspect, who was captured on security video, fled and wasn’t arrested until three years later.
Dung Minh Nguyen, a Richmond resident, posted bail and for the last eight years has walked around a free man. The Hernandez family is hoping that Nguyen may soon finally be brought to trial.
“It’s hard to believe that there’s no justice when your brother’s killed,” said Joey’s sister, Teresa Alexander. “I mean, of course we want a guilty verdict, but at this point we just want a trial.”
In an interview on Monday, Joey’s family said the DA’s office has shown no interest in pursuing a trial, shuffling the case to one prosecutor after another.
“We’ve lost count, honestly,” said Joey’s brother-in-law John Carney. “I think there’s been ten or more district attorneys that were supposed to try this case, and every six months it rolls over to a different person. We’ll ask them for details, and they have no idea. It’s clear every single one of them has not even read the case. They don’t know what’s going on.”READ MORE: Big Sur Residents Told to Boil Water Due to Possible Wildfire Damage to Utility
Joey’s niece, Jessica Alexander, has had the same experience in dealing with prosecutors.
“Often times, we’ll come in and we’ll be the ones asking them, ‘Do you have any updates on this witness or any information on the case?’ And they have to go look up and see who we’re talking about because they don’t know it offhand,” she said.
Now after 11 years, the case is finally scheduled for a “trial call” on January 18th to set a date for the proceedings to begin. In a statement, DA spokesperson Rachel Marshall said, “Our office is preparing for trial in this case, which is currently scheduled for later this month. We are eager to advance this case and hope the court will find us a courtroom for trial as soon as possible.”
But Hernandez’s family has their doubts. They said they’ve already been warned privately there could be another delay, possibly for months. And that’s why they’re speaking out publicly.
They said they feel the only way to finally bring Nguyen to trial is by shaming the district attorney into doing it.
“It’s not a matter of is this man going to be declared guilty? Is he going to do jail time? is he going to do prison time?” said Teresa Alexander. “We just want to know that my brother’s life mattered and that they’re going to make it a priority to do the right thing and actually have a court trial.”MORE NEWS: Hazardous Sneaker Waves Threaten San Francisco Beachcombers
A judge has reportedly ordered the DA’s office to begin trial within 30 days of the trial call. But even if that happens, the family says they’re concerned that the long delay will make it hard to prosecute the case, with witnesses having to remember what happened 11 years ago.