Saturday, September 20, 2008

Judge rejects witness


A Superior Court Judge yesterday ruled that testimony from a doctor who specializes in adolescent development would not be permitted to take the stand in the murder trial of a 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy.
Deputy Public Defender Karen 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, told the court a wealth of information is available, and often used by higher courts, that indicates the brain of an adolescent is not fully developed at such a young age.

As such, Atkins said prior to making any judgment about her client, who was 14 when the crime occurred, the jury should have an opportunity to hear the testimony of Dr. Elizabeth E. Cauffman, an associate professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine.
“I think that evidence is properly admissible in this trial,” Atkins said after court yesterday. “I think that’s going to be a major appeal issue if our client gets convicted of murder.”
Upon learning of Atkins’ plans to call Cauffman, the judge asked her to submit case law and argue her point prior to doing so in front of the jury.
The primary case Atkins cited was Rover v. Simmons, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that it is unconstitutional for a person under the age of 18 to face the death penalty.
According to a Washington Post story on the ruling, the court found the death penalty for minors constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and said there is a “national consensus” against the practice.
The Washington Post story also said the justice’s based their decision partly on medical and social-science evidence that juveniles are too immature to be held accountable for their crimes to the same extent as adults.
Atkins said the Supreme Court used some of Cauffman’s research to formulate its opinion.
Though Juarez is not facing the death penalty, he could face life without parole if found guilty of murder with a gang enhancement.
Atkins insisted that the Supreme Court ruling came into play in a similar way when dealing with the Juarez case.
However, she said Hill didn’t think so because he felt the Supreme Court case dealt with punishment, not guilt — a distinction he felt pertinent when dealing with this topic.
He said Atkins failed to provide solid legal authority to convince him otherwise, and will not permit Cauffman to take the stand.
“I applaud your passion on this issue, some of which makes rational sense to the court,” Hill said. “I just don’t see that there’s legal authority for the admissibility to allow this type of evidence.”
Atkins, however, believes the fact her client was 14 (the minimum age to be tried as an adult in California) when the crime was committed is reason enough for Cauffman to at least tell the jury about the well-established science that indicates a juvenile’s brain is incapable of understanding the consequences of certain actions.
“Why assume it’s not admissible,” she said. “Shouldn’t we get the benefit of the doubt?”
While Atkins doesn’t deny her client played a significant role in the gang fight that day, she has put on evidence over the past week that indicates another boy, referred to in court as Ricardo R., is responsible for inflicting the fatal stab wound.
Atkins said yesterday she believes Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor in the case, will tell the jury the simple fact Juarez was seen wielding a knife and swinging it at the victim, whether someone else contributed or not, is enough to find him guilty.
If Dozer goes down that road, Atkins said it would be helpful for the jury to know the ins and outs of the undeveloped juvenile brain.
The point of Cauffman’s testimony then would be to show Juarez, under the premise he didn’t inflict the fatal wound, could not have understood that showing up to the fight, swinging the knife at the victim in the intersection of State and Carrillo streets, could have resulted in a boy’s death.
“He’s a child, not an adult,” she said. “Children don’t think of that. I feel very strongly the jury needs to hear it.”
Attempts to reach Dozer for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.


Anonymous said...

Since intent is an essential part of proving an intentional killing, i'd think that showing Juarez could not have that intent would be necessary. Is Atkins saying that all 14-year-olds are too "immature" to intentionallly kill someone? Perhaps Juarez was an exception, if he did knife Linares? Or perhaps not?

Anonymous said...

This is all subjective evidence and provides theoritical points that don't lead to actual proof of intent or ability to kill. I think the Judge made the right call, but they still have the wrong kid on trail.

Anonymous said...

There's two types of intent: General and specific. General intent means that if you do something, you intended to do it. Atkins can't have it both ways: Either she is saying Juarez did it but didn't know what he was doing (immaturity, brain development, etc.) or some other dude did it. Eye witnesses, DNA, bloody gloves, a wicked murder weapon, creepy gang members, a plan to rumble... See Ya! p.s. with all the gang members arrested lately in the three murder cases; does our community miss these losers??

Anonymous said...

either way ricky deserves and is entitled to a fair trial!
and if the judge isnt going to let the scientist trstify well then ricky isnt going to get a fiar trial is he? NO hes not!
well the judge should let her trestify they have the wrong kid on the line !
ricky wouldnt do that!
you predjudice ppl can say what you want to say but the truth you cant escape

Anonymous said...

if you people are soooo certain this little loser did not kill anyone, have you gone to the police with info on who actually did it? I doubt you have. and saying this loser does not have the brain capacity to understand what he is doing is wrong, is a pathetic arguement. he is a gang banger. this is what they do. they intimidate people, and kill those who get in the way of their plans.

deport him, his family, and the rest of his gang banging losers.