Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Attorneys launch into closing arguments


Two months to the day after the murder trial of a 15-year-old Santa Barbara boy got underway, attorneys from both sides delivered closing statements in Superior Court.
The Santa Barbara County jury of 10 women and two men heard several hours of statements from the prosecution yesterday, and nearly as much from the defense, which will conclude its closing statements today.

Dressed in a blue and white striped polo shirt, 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, looked on as prosecutor Hilary Dozer spelled out the circumstances around the slaying, which he said all point to the defendant.
“This guy is a gangster killer,” Dozer said. “This defendant, Ricardo Juarez, committed a murder with malice when he murdered Luis Angel Linares.”
Dozer rehashed much of the evidence presented over the course of the trial, including the crux of the defense’s case.
Juarez’s legal counsel, public defenders Karen Atkins and Jennifer Archer, put on evidence that showed another boy, referred to in court as Ricardo R., could have inflicted the fatal wound.
Dozer reminded the jury that the only person on trial for murder is Juarez. Then he reiterated a statement read by Hill in court last week about Ricardo R.’s plea of guilty in juvenile court to assaulting Linares with a knife during the fight.
Dozer said any question about Ricardo R.s involvement has, for the purposes of this case, been resolved.
“This is not a case against Ricardo R.,” he said. “That’s another case on another day in another courtroom.”
Though Ricardo R. played a role in the assault, Dozer said according to the law, it’s a non-issue. He said the only person who can be held liable for the killing is Juarez.
The prosecutor told the jury they could find that Juarez was the perpetrator, and as a result committed the crime and killed the boy, or that he aided and abetted, or finally that he was a co-conspirator with other Eastside gang members.
Dozer said it doesn’t matter how one looks at it, the fact that Juarez admitted to swinging a knife at the victim, that his DNA was found on the handle of a knife and the victim’s blood was found on the blade, and others identified Juarez as the stabber is enough to hold him liable for the murder.
“Even if somebody else did it, it doesn’t make any legal difference,” he said.
The vast discrepancy between how the defense and prosecution interpret this case stems from differences in opinion as to exactly where and when Linares sustained the fatal blow.
Of the eight knife wounds found on Linares’ body, one was fatal. A forensic expert testified that the fatal wound entered just below the boy’s right armpit, penetrated deep between two ribs, where it punctured the boy’s lung, causing him to bleed to death internally.
Dozer has said he believes this wound was inflicted early on in the brawl near the intersection of State and Carrillo streets. A civilian witness, who watched the fight unravel from his second-story window across from Saks Fifth Avenue, said from the witness stand that he Juarez swing a knife at Linares.
As the assault continued, the witness said he saw Linares fall onto his back and begin “crab walking” away from the victim.
It is at this point that Dozer believes Juarez inflicted the fatal wound. As Linares attempted to get up from the crab walk position, Dozer said the boy exposed his right armpit area to Juarez, who using a sweeping sidearm motion with his right hand, plunged the 12-inch knife into the boy’s body.
Dozer said this wound being inflicted at this stage explains the defendant’s statements to a friend in a police interview room, during which Juarez says: “I was just sticking him and that fool’s all like, he’s all like fu***in’ bleeding from his mouth. That’s all, that’s all I remember.”
Dozer said the fatal wound, which would have caused Linares’ lungs to fill with blood, was the only one that could have made the boy bleed from the mouth.
“If he was sticking him and that fool was all fu**ing bleeding from his mouth; you know the sequence of wounds,” Dozer told the jury.
After the initial assault, Linares made his way to the valet parking lot at Saks Fifth Avenue, where he collapsed and died in a planter.
It is at this point where the defense believes Ricardo R. delivered the fatal blow.
Witnesses said they saw the victim being kicked and punched in the planter. One woman, who was near her car in the Saks Fifth Avenue parking lot, said during the trial that she saw the victim get hit over the head with a baseball bat.
Shortly after the fight, one of these women picked Juarez out of an infield lineup and identified him as the person she saw in the back parking lot assaulting the victim.
However, Atkins said the testimony from this witness is not credible because she initially couldn’t identify anyone, then saw that Juarez was wearing black gloves and changed her mind.
Ricardo R., who avoided being arrested until several days after the fight, also wore black gloves during the fight. Police recovered Ricardo R.’s gloves from a girl’s dresser drawer. These gloves were found to contain traces of Linares’ blood.
Dozer said he believes Ricardo R.’s gloves became bloody while the boy was punching Linares in the planter.
However, the other woman in the lot could not identify Juarez, but later identified Ricardo R. as the person assaulting Linares. According to police documents displayed in court, this woman said she saw Ricardo R. wearing black gloves and a long sleeve shirt or jacket.
Atkins said one of the women told police directly after the fight that Linares was facing away from the stabber in the back lot. However, this woman said from the stand the two were standing face-to-face.
The defense has relied on the woman’s earlier statement, orienting Linares with his back to the stabber, to explain when the fatal wound was inflicted.
In the same audio recording of Juarez describing the blood coming from the victim’s mouth, the boy discovers Ricardo R., whose gang moniker is “Stomper,” also apparently stabbed the victim.
Juarez asked the boy, who was also arrested in connection with the gang fight, where “Stomper got him,” and the boy can be seen in the videotape pointing below his right armpit.
During her closing statements, Atkins also said text messages that appeared on the MySpace.com Web page of a person involved in the fight said “Stomper” admitted to the owner of that page that he stabbed Linares.
“Why would Stomper say that he shanked him if he didn’t,” Atkins asked the jury.
Atkins said the police appeared to have overlooked this evidence. She compared the police investigation it to looking for a needle in a haystack while choosing to ignore the pitchfork.
She said the police were stuck looking for evidence that pointed to Juarez, and while they found some, they decided to look over a significant amount of evidence with Ricardo R.’s name on it.
“They were looking through a mountain of evidence trying find evidence pointing toward my client as the main suspect,” she said. “That is the exact opposite of what you as jurors must do.”
Dozer said this simply doesn’t matter, since anything Ricardo R. may have done does not erase what Juarez admitted to doing.
And according to Dozer, this evidence includes Juarez willfully carrying a knife to a gang fight and repeatedly stabbing Linares for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
And that, Dozer said, is murder.
“It’s classic deliberative, willful, premeditated murder,” he said, adding that the situation is that much more tragic when considering the young age of the defendant.
“One of the other tragedies here is right up there on that board,” Dozer said as he pointed to a picture of Linares’ lifeless body lying in the planter. “The victim in this case, that 15-year-old, he died in the dirt.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is sad and depressing. We have nothing to be proud of. All that we have accomplished and gained does not mean much right now. The details of this crime underline our faliure as a society to some degree.

I'm sure some of you are reading this and saying, "whatever dude". But just keep in mind that the quiet and peaceful morning that we all appreciate is only a borrowed piece of time.

And like the lives of all these young boys that are now spoiled, we should take stock in what we have and realize that our lives do not compare to there's.