SAN FRANCISCO—Wakeen Best, 36, of San Francisco has been granted a new trial by a California Appellate Court after being convicted of animal cruelty, auto burglary, and vandalism. She received a three-year sentence which has been served. On Friday, May 29, a state appeals court ruled that Best was entitled to a new trial because the court had wrongly denied her Faretta motion to represent herself during the 2018 trial.
On February 10, 2018, Best broke into a white Mercedes-Benz in a parking structure on Sutter and Stockton Streets. The four-year-old chihuahua, Dunky, that was inside the car began to bark. Concerned that the dog’s barking would draw attention, Best threw the dog from the seventh level of the parking structure. She was convicted of animal cruelty, auto burglary, and vandalism, in addition to being charged with four misdemeanors.
According to Superior Court Judge Charles Crompton, while Best demonstrated a “lack of understanding of the law,” the San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal noted that Best was mentally competent to represent herself during the trial in 2018. Under a 1975 Supreme Court decision that grants criminal defendants the constitutional right to represent themselves during their trials, the California Appellate Court annulled the decision to deny her Faretta motion and granted her a new trial.
Best denies breaking into the vehicle, but a dashboard camera video shows the suspect in the front of the Mercedes-Benz. Audio from the auto burglary was also recorded in the video. She received a probation sentence after committing several auto burglaries including one that occurred in the same parking structure in 2016.