Thursday, August 28, 2008

Judge opens court to public


A Superior Court judge who had ordered that his courtroom be closed to the public during a preliminary hearing for five people facing murder charges, opened it yesterday, a day after the Daily Sound published a story about the First Amendment implications of such a closure.
Defense attorney Joseph Allen, legal counsel for 16-year-old Ruben Nicholas Mize, one of the five charged with murder, said the judge rescinded the closure because he felt authorities could keep a lid on any and all security concerns.

Allen said both the defense and the prosecution agreed with Judge Clifford Anderson’s decision to initially close the court, albeit for different reasons.
Deputy District Attorney Hans Almgren said the judge closed the courtroom because he was concerned about the defendants receiving a fair trial.
“Judge Anderson decided circumstances had changed,” Almgren said. “With respect to the defendant’s fair trial rights at this time.”
The courtroom yesterday was heavily fortified with law enforcement officers, who at times nearly outnumbered the number of people in the audience.
The five people facing murder charges are accused of allegedly participating in the slaying of 16-year-old Lorenzo Valentin Carachure, who was stabbed to death near his home on San Pascual Street on July 16, 2007, in what police dubbed a gang-related assault.
Four of those facing charges are juveniles. They include Mize and Steven Medinilla, who are both 16, as well as Raul Diaz and Ricardo Manuel Nava Jr., both 17. One adult, Emilio Mora, 19, has also been charged with murder. All of the juveniles are being tried as adults. These five people also face two charges each of attempted murder for the stabbings of two people who were assaulted along with Carachure.
A second 19-year-old, Carlos Diaz, was initially charged with murder, but according to Almgren, he recently pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact and a gang enhancement, which states he committed the crime to benefit a street gang.
Santa Barbara Police Det. Gary Siegel took the stand yesterday, and testified primarily about the nature of criminal street gangs in Santa Barbara.
He talked at length about Mize’s tenure with one of the city’s Eastside gangs, and said he’s known the defendant since he was 8 years old.
Siegel said Mize has been arrested for his involvement with past stabbings, as well as a vehicle chase with police, during which Mize apparently admitted to throwing a .22 revolver from the window of the vehicle.
The detective also said Mize, at some point, was placed on a local list of serious habitual offenders.
Almgren asked Siegel to recall a number of past gang-related assaults in the city, one of which he said occurred at State and Carrillo streets and involved Carachure and the two others who were stabbed. And two nights later, Carachure was dead.
Many of the details surrounding the assault and Carachure’s death remain fuzzy, largely because the first four days of the hearing, which began on Tuesday, Aug. 19, were closed to the public.
Almgren said he expects to wrap up his part of the case today.
A preliminary hearing is held prior to trial in order for a judge to assess whether enough evidence exists to warrant a trial. The defense rarely puts on its own evidence during such a hearing, and the officiating judge does not base his or her decision on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as would be the standard during a jury trial.
The hearing resumes today at 9:30 a.m. in department 14.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It breaks my haert. I taught Ruben Mize at Franklin Elementary in the "innocent" years. He was a GATE student,(very smart) and had potential for so much more. I remember his father was in prison. It just goes to show that not enough intervention is available and or sought after by these families. Utter shame so many lives are ruined now.