Thursday, October 25, 2007

Juarez pleads innocent, more subpoenas served for photos

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

The trial for a 14-year-old Santa Barbara boy charged with murder in connection with a March gang brawl came one step closer yesterday, when the boy’s public defender pleaded innocent on behalf of her client during an arraignment in Superior Court.
It was the second arraignment for Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, who was ordered by Superior Court Judge Brian Hill to be held over for trial after much of the prosecution’s evidence was presented to him during a preliminary hearing in August.

As a result of yesterday’s plea, Juarez, who is accused of stabbing 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares to death on March 14 at the intersection of Carrillo and State streets, will likely not get a trial until early next year.
Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, Juarez’s legal counsel, waived her defendant's right to speedy trial, which without a time waiver, is mandated for 60 days after a plea. Hill set a loose deadline of Feb. 15 for trial, which could be pushed back or moved forward in coming weeks.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney has elected to try Juarez as an adult.
During the past seven months, Atkins has vehemently denied that Juarez was responsible for killing Linares and said she plans to file a motion before the court to dismiss the findings of the preliminary hearing.
Though Atkins has not yet filed such a motion, she said the District Attorney’s most recent filing of charging documents against Juarez, which must be done after a preliminary hearing is held, were filed late and she plans to use this as an additional reason for dismissing the findings of the hearing.
“We’re going to be challenging it on a number of grounds,” Atkins said.
Of much concern to both parties in the months to come is the whereabouts of a juvenile named Luis L., who was the topic of testimony given by law enforcement officers during Juarez’s preliminary hearing.
Atkins told Hill that Luis L. was picked up by immigration and customs officials recently and could possibly be deported.
“We do not want them deporting him,” Atkins told Hill. “He is a critical witness on both sides.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor in the case, said he has spoken with federal authorities and is confident Luis L. will remain in the country.
Dozer, who argued a trial for Juarez should be held before February, said the longer the delay, the less likely Luis L. will be available to testify.
“[Luis L.] certainly was present [at the gang fight] as were a number of people on State Street that day,” Dozer said. “He certainly is the kind of witness that we would want to keep here and available. He has cooperated with us in the past.”
If Luis L. is deported and cannot be made available for Juarez’s trial, Dozer said Atkins’ demand for a dismissal of the charges could be granted. This could occur, Dozer said, if Luis L. is unavailable and the defense makes the argument that his testimony could exonerate Juarez.
“The prevailing case law is probably on her side in that situation,” Dozer said.
But Dozer doesn’t think that will be the case.
“I believe, based on what I’ve been told, that he will be available,” Dozer said. “I think [federal authorities] understand the risks involved.”
Atkins’ search for what transpired on the day of the fight, which was described by eyewitnesses and Santa Barbara police officials during the preliminary hearing as chaos, has not been limited to the gathering of evidence by police.
Before the preliminary hearing Atkins subpoenaed the Daily Sound for all of the photos its photographers took on the day of the fight. Hill ordered the Daily Sound to turn over the photos, but the paper’s editor and publisher, Jeramy Gordon, argued it did not have to do so because of the protections afforded news gatherers by the California Journalist Shield Law. The Shield Law protects journalists from being held in contempt of court when a subpoena is not obeyed.
Gordon eventually turned the photos over to the court, citing the high costs of waging a lengthy court battle.
In the past week, Atkins subpoenaed two other Santa Barbara news outlets, the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Hill said CDs of the photos taken on the day of the fight by the News-Press were delivered to the court yesterday. The Independent did not immediately turn over its photos and had local attorney Michael Cooney appear on their behalf.
“[Atkins] is just trying to look in every corner, I think, to see if she can bolster her case,” Cooney told the Daily Sound after the hearing.
Cooney, who represented the Daily Sound during its court fight over its subpoena, said it is likely he will file a motion to narrow the scope of the subpoena issued to the Independent.
He did say it is too early to know if the weekly paper will use the California Shield Law as its defense, which in the case of the Daily Sound didn’t quell Atkins’ desire for the photos or sway Hill’s belief that they were pertinent to Juarez’s defense.
“It would be premature to state what their defense will be to the subpoena,” Cooney said. “We’re looking at all of the possibilities, including the shield law.”
Atkins told Hill yesterday that she believed having an additional hearing, at which Cooney will argue the case of another newspaper on the same topic as he did for the Daily Sound, “seems to be going through stuff that’s already been ruled on.”
Hill countered saying, “I don’t know what tack the Independent’s going to take.”
Barry Cappello, of the law firm Cappello & Noel that represents the News-Press, said he had no comment when asked about the reasoning for that paper’s decision to turn over the photos.
The closest thing to a prediction on this topic came from Dozer.
“I have to assume Judge Hill will rule as he did with the Daily Sound,” he said.
Cooney will argue the Independent’s case during a hearing on Nov. 19 at 9 a.m.

1 comment:

Linda said...

"Hill countered saying, “I don’t know what tact the Independent’s going to take.” "

Just a note for your copy desk (which does an excellent job and seldom goofs) -- I believe the word you wanted here was "tack," not "tact." The usage derives from sailing, where to "tack" is to change your vessel's direction by shifting the tacks and sails. So, Hill was saying he didn't know what approach (or direction) the Independent would choose. Agreed? Good article, well written.