Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Juarez describes stabbing in 'whisper tape'


A nearly inaudible tape recording of a 15-year-old boy describing to a friend how he stabbed another boy during a March 14, 2007, downtown gang melee was played for the jury during the boy’s trial yesterday in Superior Court.
In the tape, Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, who is being tried as an adult for the killing of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares, can be heard telling another boy in a police interrogation room that he wielded a knife and “killed someone.”

“I was just sticking him and that fool’s all like, he’s all like f***in’ bleeding from his mouth. That’s all, that’s all I remember,” Juarez says during the recording, which has come to be known as the “whisper tape.”
With a set of speakers facing the jury box, the recording, which included video, was played twice. The jury followed along using a transcript of the conversation between Juarez and the other boy, who was apparently also arrested in connection with the gang fight.
The playing of the “whisper tape” marked the finale of the prosecution’s case, which Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer said he expects will wrap up today.
While the “whisper tape” contains significant evidence that suggests Juarez played a key role in the assault that day, it also suggests someone else, referred to in court as Ricardo R., also had a hand in the deadly assault.
Deputy Public Defender’s Karen Atkins and Jennifer Archer, Juarez’s defense counsel, have long maintained that it was Ricardo R. who inflicted the fatal stab wound, not Juarez.
Prior to Juarez telling the other boy in the tape that he was “sticking” Linares, the two boys speak about a person called “Stomper,” Ricardo R’s gang moniker.
The boy tells Juarez that “Stomper” stabbed “Nacho,” Linares’ gang moniker.
“You know Nacho? That fool’s the one Stomper got,” the boy tells Juarez.
When Juarez asks the boy where “Stomper” stabbed Linares, the boy points to his right armpit area, the spot where a forensic expert who testified earlier in the trial said was the location of the fatal wound.
While Dozer places heavy emphasis on Juarez’s statements, Atkins believes the earlier conversation about the activity of “Stomper” on that day shows her client should not be facing a murder charge as an adult.
“It’s obvious that [the other boy on the tape] did not see what Ricky was doing and Ricky didn’t see what he was doing,” Atkins said. “But [the boy] saw what Stomper was doing.”
Though the tape was an exclamation point to the prosecution’s case, Dozer continued yesterday to call police witnesses who he says will show that not only did Juarez kill Linares, he did so for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
In this case that gang is the Eastside “Traviesos,” a subset of several known Eastside gangs.
In order to prove Juarez is a member of the gang and acted on its behalf, Dozer has to meet a number of thresholds, which includes showing at least two convictions of known gang members and proving the gang has demonstrated a “pattern” of criminal activity.
While Dozer has repeatedly referenced the extent of the gang’s activities throughout the trial, he drove home the point yesterday by calling to the stand Det. Mark Vierra, a gang specialist who works for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Dozer asked the detective about a number of recent incidents involving the Eastside gang, which included assaults, of which Vierra said there have been roughly 10 traced to the Eastside gang in the past year.
The prosecutor also asked Vierra about individual gang members, one of whom pleaded guilty to a crime and admitted to being a member of the Eastside gang. Vierra confirmed that he knew the boys discussed to be known Eastside gang members.
“All this stuff is gang enhancement information,” Dozer said after court yesterday. “Including prior criminal acts by the gang to show this is not some random criminal act by some lone wolf. This is a long-running criminal organization.”
A gang enhancement would significantly lengthen any possible sentence should Juarez be convicted.
Atkins and Archer have also vehemently opposed the characterization of their client, who was 14 at the time of his arrest, as a gang member.
Atkins believes Dozer needs to do much more than merely prove the gang exists to show Juarez was a part of it.
“It also requires that they have to show that our client knew that that was [the gang’s] specific purpose and that [Juarez] had the specific intent to engage in this activity for the benefit of the gang,” she said. “It’s not just simply whether or not they throw hand signs or dress alike.”
The trial has now lasted for more than a month, and presiding Judge Brian Hill cleared his calendar through the end of October to ensure the trial is conducted without time restraints.
As the prosecution prepares to rest its case today, Atkins said she does not feel Dozer has put together a sound case that proves her client was responsible for killing Linares.
“I think he’s tried to over-stretch his evidence and imply that he’s proven more than he actually has with the evidence he’s put on,” she said. “We’re just looking forward to moving this thing along.”
However, Dozer said he feels the defendant’s comments on the whisper tape, forensic evidence that ties a knife used to stab Linares to Juarez, and testimony from eyewitnesses who identified Juarez at the scene as the stabber is enough to prove that Juarez is guilty.
“There’s 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,” he said.

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