A man accused of killing his partner of nearly two decades in San Francisco last year was found not guilty of murder on Monday, according to the public defender’s office. Timothy Stewart, 48, had been charged with murder for the death of Terry Spray, 60, who police said was assaulted in the 1100 block of Ellis Street on Aug. 3, 2012, and succumbed to his injuries more than a month later on Sept. 18. But following a month-long trial, a San Francisco Superior Court jury acquitted Stewart of all charges, according to the public defender’s office.
Stewart and Spray were longtime domestic partners who married in 2004 during a brief period when San Francisco performed same-sex marriages. Spray was found unconscious and bleeding from the head in the garage of the couple’s apartment building, and Stewart was arrested six days after Spray’s death after spending weeks at his bedside, according to the public defender’s office. No blood, DNA or fingerprint evidence linked Stewart to the death.
Prosecutors showed surveillance video of Stewart leaving the garage 10 minutes before the estimated time of the attack, then someone pushed the camera so a view of the garage was partially obscured, public defender’s officials said. Stewart’s defense attorneys said there was no history of discord between the couple and that there had been numerous break-ins to the garage in the weeks and months prior to the attack. Deputy Public Defender Danielle Harris said in a statement that the decision to charge Stewart with murder was “terrifying and unbelievable.” Harris said, “Timothy Stewart is an innocent man who has been through a Kafkaesque nightmare.
The police and prosecutors took everything from him — his freedom, his dignity, any chance he had to grieve for his life partner and best friend in a healthy way, or to give him a proper goodbye.” Stewart, a commercial fisherman, was released from custody on Monday night. He had been in custody since his arrest and missed Spray’s memorial service. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said in a statement that the jury’s verdict was a triumph for justice.
“In this country, we cannot take away somebody’s liberty without evidence. Mr. Stewart tragically lost his husband then suffered an unimaginable injustice at the hands of police and prosecutors,” Adachi said. District attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said, “Various judges ruled that there was sufficient evidence to present this case to a jury. We agreed with the judge and we respect the jury’s decision.”
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