Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Final witness testimony expected today


The final day of witness testimony in the murder trial of a 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy is expected today in Superior Court, according to the judge presiding over the case.
If the evidentiary portion of the trial concludes on schedule, Judge Brian Hill said yesterday the prosecution and defense could present closing arguments as early as next Monday, with jury instructions following shortly thereafter.

Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez is being tried as an adult for the stabbing death of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares during a downtown gang brawl on March 14, 2007.
Juarez’s legal counsel, led by Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, has focused its case on another juvenile boy named Ricardo R., who was arrested in connection with the stabbing.
According to courtroom statements from the attorneys, Ricardo R. apparently pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in juvenile court.
Atkins and co-counsel for the defense, Jennifer Archer, put on evidence during the defense’s portion of the case that suggested Ricardo R. was armed with a knife during the fight. They believe it was this boy, not Juarez, who inflicted the fatal stab wound.
However, witnesses for the prosecution testified that they saw Juarez wielding a knife during the fight and swinging it at the victim.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor, also played an audio recording, in which Juarez tells a friend, who was also arrested in connection to the fight, that he repeatedly stabbed the victim, and while he was doing so, blood was coming from the victim’s mouth.
A forensic expert testified that blood found on a knife recovered from a garbage can on State Street contained the victim’s blood on the blade and Juarez’s DNA on the handle.
After resting the people’s case, Dozer told the Daily Sound in early September there was “no doubt in my mind we’ve proved beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed this murder and it was to benefit a criminal street gang.”
Dozer had the chance yesterday to rebut testimony presented during the defense’s case.
He focused on an interview conducted by Atkins and her investigator of two female juveniles who were present at the gang melee, which broke out in broad daylight in the intersection of State and Carrillo streets.
Dozer said one of the girls, whose name is not being used due to safety concerns, made conflicting statements while testifying in court, compared to those she gave during a defense interview in 2007.
Reading from notes taken during the defense interview, Dozer said the girl told the defense she spoke with Ricardo R. shortly after the fight, and he blamed Juarez for the stabbing.
Dozer said the girl’s statements to the defense were “totally contradictory” to what she said from the witness stand.
Atkins objected, and Hill cleared the jury from the courtroom to discuss the merits of the comments.
Atkins told the judge the girl made the comments shortly after being threatened by an Eastside gang member. She also said the person who made the threats was arrested and prosecuted for doing so.
Atkins said the girl became a target for intimidation after gang associates, who apparently once resided in the same apartment complex as the girl, saw police at her home recovering items, including a pair of black gloves worn by Ricardo R. on the day of the fight.
Archer said the girl received a message on her MySpace.com page that said she would be “shanked,” or stabbed if she cooperated with the police investigation.
The girl told the defense that Ricardo R. gave her the gloves shortly after the incident. After being tested for DNA, the gloves were found to contain the victim’s blood.
Hill allowed Dozer to present the girl’s earlier comments before the jury. However, he also said he would allow Atkins the opportunity to bring up the alleged intimidation, which she claimed was the main reason for the girl’s comments. The defense believes the girl was attempting to protect Ricardo R. because of the threats.
“She was highly motivated to direct evidence away from Ricardo R.,” Atkins said of the female witness.
At 9:30 a.m. today, the attorneys will begin discussing how they want the judge to administer jury instructions. The final witnesses in the case are expected to begin taking the stand at 1:30 p.m. in Hill’s department 2 courtroom.

No comments: