It was deadline day Thursday for two Santa Barbara newspapers-including the Independent-to respond to subpoenas from public defender Karen Atkins, who is looking for photos taken by photographers on March 14 which may have an impact in the defense of her client, 14-year-old Ricardo Juarez, who has pled not guilty to murder charges.
The murder of 15-year old Luis Linares came during a large gang brawl at State and Carrillo Streets in broad daylight. Roughly a dozen were arrested as a result of the brawl. Juarez is being charged as an adult, making him the youngest person to be charged for murder as an adult in the county.
The Santa Barbara News-Press apparently answered Atkins’ subpoena by turning in a compact disc of photos to Atkins’ office Thursday morning. She arrived to find in her box an envelope marked “confidential” from the law firm of Cappello & Noel, which has represented the paper in the past. Inside, was a disc, which Atkins turned over to the court in the afternoon, during a scheduled hearing.
Attorney Michael Cooney appeared in court Thursday morning on behalf of the Independent, but was unable to make it for the afternoon hearing because of a business trip to Lake Tahoe. In court, he asked Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill to schedule a date where he can make a presentation to the judge. Cooney, who represented the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on a similar matter in July when that paper’s photos of March 14 events were subpoenaed, said he is still pouring over the Independent‘s subpoena to see if journalist shield laws apply and will share the results of his study during a November 19 court date. The News-Press turning in its photos, however, doesn’t impact any decision made at the Independent, he stressed. “The fact that the News-Press turned it over has nothing to do with the Independent‘s judgment of if there’s a reporter shield issue here,” Cooney said.
The Daily Sound didn’t respond to Atkins’ subpoena, citing journalistic privileges of not having to turn over unpublished stories and photos or revealing sources. Hill disagreed with the argument, and ordered the Daily Sound to turn over their photos or face contempt-of-court charges, the consequences of which might have included a possible fine or jail time. The Daily Sound chose not to appeal the decision, citing prohibitive court costs, and turned over the photos to Atkins to avoid possible fines.
Also of interest in Thursday’s hearing was the news that Luis L., a witness whose testimony was presented at the August preliminary hearing through Detective Alexander Cruz, was now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to Atkins, who called Luis L. a “critical witness” in her case. According to the testimony of Cruz, Luis L. saw Juarez come at Linares with a knife matching the description of one detectives found in a trash can at State and Carrillo. However, Luis L. also told Cruz he saw a 13-year-old, swinging his right hand at Westsiders, and believed that he saw something shiny in his right hand.
Outside the courtroom talking to reporters, prosecutor Hillary Dozer chose his words carefully when describing Luis L. “Luis L. was one of many individuals who came under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court subsequent to the events outside Saks Fifth Avenue,” Dozer said. Apparently, juvenile court proceedings regarding Luis L. have concluded, and at their conclusion the juvenile was picked up by federal authorities.
Dozer, who has been in contact with federal authorities, didn’t seem too concerned about the possibility of the witness leaving the United States, and said there is no reason to believe he’ll be unavailable. He did say there is a possibility that if Luis L. is deported to Mexico, and if unavailable to testify in the trial, Atkins could argue that he is a critical witness to their case, and the court would be forced to dismiss the case. “The court has to assume the witness could provide exonerating evidence,” said Dozer, adding that case law would be on Atkins’ side should the situation arise.
Lori Haley, who works in the public affairs office at ICE, said ICE doesn’t often deal with juveniles, and that Luis L. was more than likely under the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, though she didn’t know for certain.
Almost lost in the date shuffling, motion filing and subpoena talk, Atkins entered a not guilty plea on all charges on behalf of her client. She also said she planned to file a motion to dismiss the findings of the preliminary hearing. While normally a trial would have to begin within 60 days of yesterday’s arraignment, that time schedule was waived, and the new date the trial must begin by is February 25.