Michael Smith Case - Trial Transcript

Download a PDF of the closing arguments in Smith's trial.

Discussion Questions


  1. Who are the main characters in this story?
  2. Describe what happened to Michael.
  3. Why does Michael's lawyer need to give him a ride?
  4. Where is Michael living? Why do you think he is living where he is?
  5. As they two men drive to San Francisco, what does Michael say about how black men are treated in society? Do you agree or disagree with what he is saying?
  6. How does Michael feel about the fact that he was arrested? Does he seem upset? Would you feel upset? Why?
  7. Michael says that he wished he could turn back time. Why does he say that?
  8. What did you see the officers do to Michael after he was on the ground? Do you think the officers acted correctly from what you could see?
  9. When they are at the Public Defender's office, Michael asks his lawyer what a motion is. What does his lawyer tell him a motion is?
  10. When they go to court, Michael's lawyer argues the case to the jury. What does he ask the jurors to do?


  1. Do you think that Michael did anything wrong? What did he do that you agree/disagree with?
  2. What would you have done differently when the police first approached Michael?
  3. Do you think that the police did anything wrong when they approached Michael and ordered him to get down on the ground?
  4. What are some of the other options or alternatives the police could have used in that situation other than ordering Michael to the ground?
  5. Should the police have explained to Michael why they were stopping him? What could they have said to him? Why is it important to explain why they were stopping him?
  6. The 9-1-1 caller reported that Michael had tried to rob him and that Michael had a weapon. It later turned out that this report was false. Who should be held responsible if false or incorrect information is given to the police? Why?
  7. Michael was charged with seven crimes. Why do you think that charges were brought against him? Do you think that was the right decision?
  8. When Michael was on the ground, he cries out something. What does he say? Why does he say it? Why do you think he said what he did at that point? Would you have taken the same actions Michael did if you were in that situation?
  9. When Michael is taken up to the street level, he begins yelling. Do you remember what he was saying? Who is he yelling at? Why do you think he was yelling?
  10. Do you think that the verdict was the right outcome in the case? How would you feel if Michael had been found guilty of all charges?


  1. Were Michael's constitutional rights violated? Which rights and why?
    a.  Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures?
    b.  First Amendment right to free speech?
  2. When an officer orders a person to do something, must the person always comply? If a person does not comply, is that person then guilty of resisting arrest?
  3. Did the officers act in a way that protected other members of the public who were present on the train platform? Do you think the officers should have pointed their guns at Michael? Why or why not?
  4. Was Michael justified in asking the officers why they were stopping him? Do you think he was wrong because he did not immediately comply with the officers' commands to get on the ground.
  5. Did the police make any assumptions about Michael because of how he looked? Do you think that they would have treated a person who was elderly and white the same way they treated Michael, if they received a similar report regarding an elderly white person who committed a robbery and had a weapon?
  6. How do you think that implicit bias may have affected the officers' perception of Michael having a weapon or being dangerous?
  7. The officers who took Michael to the ground were of different backgrounds and ethnicities. How do you think their backgrounds affected how they perceived and treated Michael during the arrest?
  8. What level of force should an officer be allowed to use against a person he suspects committed a crime? What if it turns out the officer is wrong? Should that affect the force that the officer used against a person?
  9. Do you think that the officer who struck Michael was using too much force, or do you think his response was justified? Why or why not?
  10. If you were making a closing argument in this case for the defense, what would you say? If you were arguing for the prosecution, what would you say?



  1. Do you think that immigrants facing deportation who are in jail should have the right to a lawyer? Outline the reasons for and against.
  2. How do you think that social change occurs? For example, when the SF Public Defender's office decided that it wanted to represent immigrants who are detained in immigration court, what steps did they take to achieve this goal? Who did they have to influence or persuade to support their initiative? What were the tools or means that they used to make their case to the public and to the decision-makers?
  3. In organizing support for the initiative to defend immigrants, the Public Defender's office developed alliances with nearly 100 organizations and agencies who supported their cause, many who testified at the hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Why was this important? What impact did this have on the Board of Supervisors' decision?
  4. The media also played an important role in publicizing the plight of immigrants who were detained in immigration court. What role did the media play in shaping public opinion on the Public Defender's initiative? How are policymakers influenced by media?
  5. The Public Defender modeled its program after a similar program in New York City, where public defenders provide representation to detained immigrants. How might the fact that another city adopted a similar program help convince policymakers in San Francisco to support the Public Defender's office's plan?
  6. The Public Defender only received some of the attorneys and support staff it had originally requested. As a result, the office cannot provide representation to all of the detained immigrants. How can it make a strong case in the future for more attorneys and staff to represent more detained immigrants? What information should be provided to the public in order to support the continuance of the program?
  7. How does San Francisco's decision to fund the legal representation of detained immigrants affect the national and international dialogue surrounding the treatment of immigrants? Will San Francisco's actions have an effect on whether other cities do the same?
  8. President Trump and members of his administration have said that the federal government will penalize sanctuary cities who provide protection to immigrants facing deportation by withholding federal funds. How does San Francisco's actions to provide legal representation to detained immigrants conflict with the President's stated policy or executive order? When a city acts, to what degree does it have to comport with the President's stated policy or executive order?
  9. Public Defender Jeff Adachi talks about his family's experience during World War II of being incarcerated in internment camps due to their Japanese ancestry. What parallels exist between the internment of Japanese Americans and what is happening today? How might his family's experiences caused Jeff Adachi to step forward to have his office represent immigrants facing detention?
  10. Deputy Public Defender Francisco Ugarte talks about his passion for representing immigrants facing deportation. Why do you think his work is important to him? Why do you think he feel so strongly about this issue?