Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stabbing victim testifies


With a scar zigzagging from his right eye to his upper lip, a suspected Eastside gang member who was stabbed several times last week limped onto the witness stand yesterday in the murder trial of a 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy.
The 18-year-old witness was scheduled to testify in court last Tuesday. But two days before taking the stand, Santa Barbara Police reports show the man was assaulted by three people in the courtyard of the Guest House Inn on upper State Street.

The man suffered a stab wound to the chest, causing his lung to collapse. He also sustained a severe cut on his face, splitting his nose and upper lip, as well as lacerations to his leg and right shoulder, police records show.
According to police reports, at least one of the people arrested for the assault was also a known Eastside gang member.
The witness was one of many Eastside and Westside gang members or gang associates that gathered near the intersection of State and Carrillo streets on March 14, 2007, where a gang melee broke out just after 2 p.m.
When the dust settled, 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares lay dead in a planter in the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue, the result of several stab wounds.
Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, 15, is being tried as an adult in connection with Linares’ death.
Nothing was said yesterday during the 18-year-old’s testimony about last week’s assault, or why it may have occurred. When asked by Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer if he was afraid to testify, the witness said he was not.
Dozer said he did not bring up the details of the assault because Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, in a discussion that occurred outside the presence of the jury and public, indicated it was not relevant.
“I always have to abide by the court rules on what may be potentially prejudicial to the jury,” Dozer said.
Deputy Public Defender’s Karen Atkins and Jennifer Archer, defense counsel for Juarez, had expressed concern that statements made in front of the jury about possible acts of intimidation could reflect poorly on their client. Atkins told the Daily Sound last week that Juarez had nothing to do with the Aug. 10 stabbing.
Security around the courtroom began beefing up prior to the witness’s arrival. Several gang officers with the Santa Barbara Police Department and as many as eight Sheriff’s deputies were in and around the courtroom.
The witness, who was charged with crimes connected to the 2007 brawl, told the jury yesterday he was originally not going to participate in the fight, but just before he got home from school, changed his mind and began walking toward State Street. Along the way, the witness said he picked up a glass bottle, which he admitted to throwing at Westside gang members during the fight.
Whenever the witness was asked to name people who participated in the fight, he said he couldn’t recall who was present.
Dozer attempted to refresh the witness’ memory by reading a police interview conducted by Det. Gary Siegel, in which the witness apparently said he saw Juarez pull out a knife during the fight.
The prosecutor asked the witness if he remembered showing officers with hand motions how Juarez thrust the knife at Linares, and described the knife as being “at least bigger than [his] palm.”
“I don’t remember saying that,” said the witness, whose identity is being withheld due to safety concerns.
During questioning by the defense, the witness said he did not know Juarez prior to that day.
Also taking the stand yesterday was Diane Ellis, who said she was near her car in the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue when several young people ran into the parking lot and one boy was stabbed.
“Right after he was stabbed he went down on the ground in the bushes,” she said.
Ellis described the stabber she saw in the parking lot as wearing a long sleeved sweatshirt. When shown several people in an in-field lineup that day, including Juarez, Ellis said she couldn’t identify anyone as the stabber.
Ellis described the stabbing she witnessed as a face-to-face assault, as did Linda Compat, who was also in the Saks parking lot.
This testimony could weigh heavily on the question of exactly where Linares received the fatal stab wound, which entered his body just below one of his armpits near his back.
After yesterday’s hearing, Dozer said Ellis’ testimony proves the fatal wound was inflicted closer to the intersection, where earlier witnesses said they saw Juarez wielding a knife and swinging it at Linares.
A juvenile witness took the stand as well, and similar to the 18-year-old witness and other former or current gang members called to testify so far, gave little information about the details and insisted he couldn’t recall who was present at the fight.
Dozer said the lack of cooperation when dealing with current or former gang members is expected, especially when the person on trial has been affiliated in some way with that gang, as law enforcement has insisted Juarez is.
“In this type of case witnesses who have gang affiliation have less-than succinct memories of what transpired,” he said. “In gang cases, memories are almost never in existence by the time a gang member or gang associate is called to testify.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe it would be self destructive to testify as a gang affiliate. The boy just stabbed by purportedly his own gang members shows just how closed a circuit these kids are in. How do you break free from that? If you testify with any accuracy, such as an intact memory, are your family members in jeapordy as well?
How, as a community, do we break this cycle? Do we leave it up to individuals caught in this nasty situation to have the integrity and accompanying death wish to step out on their own? Are there effective programs in place in Santa Barbara to break this cycle?