Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Judge issues gag order in Juarez trial


A Superior Court judge yesterday forbade the attorneys in the murder trial of a 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy from speaking to the press.
Judge Brian Hill said he has never before seen such consistent and voluminous comment in the press from two attorneys during his career, and as a result, issued a gag order.

“I think it’s inappropriate at this stage of the proceedings,” Hill said of the comments outside the courtroom. “We’re trying to limit the possibility of the members in the jury hearing things.”
The issue was raised by the prosecutor in the case, Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, who took issue with comments made by the defendant’s legal counsel, Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins.
Dozer’s concern stemmed from a Daily Sound story published on Sept. 20 that dealt with the judge’s decision to not allow a doctor who specializes in adolescent development to take the witness stand.
Atkins, legal counsel for Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez, who is being tried as an adult for the March 14, 2007 killing of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares during a downtown gang brawl, told the court last Friday that the doctor would testify about adolescent brain development.
However, Hill said he found no legal authority to permit such evidence.
Atkins told the Daily Sound after Hill’s decision that she felt such evidence, which contributed to a 2005 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that found the death penalty in juvenile cases constituted cruel and unusual punishment, was admissible in the Juarez case and could be used as an appeal issue.
If convicted, Juarez could face life in prison. Atkins has vehemently argued that while her client played a significant role in the downtown gang fight, he should not be tried as an adult. During the course of the defense’s case, Atkins and her co-counsel, Jennifer Archer, have insisted another boy who was also arrested in connection with the fight, inflicted the fatal stab wound.
Both attorneys have commented regularly to the press throughout the duration of the high-profile case, and Hill has admonished the jury on a daily basis to not watch local TV news or read any local newspapers.
But the judge said he felt it important for the case to be tried in the courtroom, not in the press.
Atkins protested the judge’s decision, saying she felt it could harm her client’s right to a public trial.
Hill disagreed, saying at this stage of the trial, which has stretched for more than a month, it’s important to ensure the fair trial rights of the prosecution and defense isn’t jeopardized by comments made to reporters.
Instead of calling the adolescent development expert to the stand, the court heard testimony yesterday from William Jerry Chisum, a criminalist.
Dozer and Archer questioned Chisum at length about a knife found in a garbage can on State Street near Saks Fifth Avenue near where Linares was killed, and the wounds that the boy sustained.
Based on his analyses of the knife, which has a six-inch blade and contained small amounts of the victim’s blood on the blade and Juarez’s DNA on the handle, the knife didn’t appear to have been used to inflict the fatal wound.
Of the eight wounds found on Linares’ body, one, referred to in court as wounds number three, was fatal.
A forensic pathologist said during Juarez’s preliminary hearing that the fatal wound entered the boy’s body just below his right arm pit, penetrated the chest wall, where it went between his ribs and punctured a lung causing severe internal bleeding.
Chisum said the knife that inflicted such a wound would have had some amount of fatty tissue found on the blade, none of which was detected on the weapon recovered by police.
“The knife does not show the evidence I would expect to be seeing if it had inflicted the wound on the back,” he said.
Chisum was also questioned about the way in which Juarez would have had to hold the knife in order for him to cut his own hands, which were gloved during the fight.
He said it would have been “awkward” for Juarez to have held the knife in such a way as to cut his hands and simultaneously inflict the fatal wound.
In a simulation of one segment of the fight, during which eyewitnesses said they saw Juarez swinging a knife at Linares, Dozer showed how he believed it wouldn’t have been awkward at all.
During the fight, near the intersection of State and Carrillo streets, Dozer said Linares fell to his back, and with Juarez approaching, began “crab walking” away. As Linares got up, Dozer said the boy turned to his left, and in so doing, exposed the right side of his back to Juarez.
Dozer said he believes Juarez, using a sweeping, sideways motion, stabbed Linares right near the spot where the fatal wound was inflicted.
The prosecutor showed the jury just how he thought it happened. He got on the ground and did the crab walk. The lead investigator in the case, Det. Mike Brown, wielded a red pen. As Dozer went to get up from the ground, Brown swung the pen and caught the senior prosecutor right where the fatal wound entered Linares’ body.
The trial resumes today in Hill’s department 2 courtroom at 10 a.m.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

its true his attorneys should be able to speal freely that isnt fair that the judge isnt letting that scientist talk!
he (ricarod juarez) is entitled to a fair trial and in my opinion he isnt getting that!
give him justice !