The trial of Ricardo Juarez - the 15-year-old accused of fatally stabbing Luis Angel Linares in a March 2007 State Street gang brawl - continued through Friday, August 8, with testimony from Karen Goodnature, a paramedic who had been on the scene when the fight broke out, from a Saks Fifth Avenue employee who saw boys dropping a knife into a trashcan, and from Juan Carlos Ramirez, a man who knew the deceased and was with the boy during his final moments.
Prosecutor Hilary Dozer continued to call and question witnesses. Friday afternoon’s session was concerned exclusively with a handful who had happened to be near the intersection of State and Carrillo streets at the time of the fight. Most of the afternoon was taken up with the Goodnature’s examination. She had been called in the morning of March 14 to care for a mentally ill, suicidal person in the upstairs level of a building across Carrillo Street from Saks Fifth Avenue. She left this person in the care of two police officers and then made some phone calls to area mental health facilities from inside her vehicle, which was parked on the south side of Carrillo, facing State Street. From this vantage point, Goodnature could watch the brawl.
The paramedic described two groups of people moving along the opposite sides of State Street, yelling and “posturing” to each other. When the group on the west side of the street spilled into the crosswalk in front of her, the paramedic realized that this was a “malicious confrontation.” Several boys ran toward her car and the group on her side of the street, and she remembered seeing one dark-haired boy somewhat in front of the rest. She would later identify this boy as the defendant, Ricardo Juarez.
The soft-spoken Goodnature became tearful as she described the events she had seen that afternoon, saying, “It was difficult to watch.” She described people kicking, hitting, and throwing things at the individual she called the victim, but could not specify exactly who did what due to the crowds of people blocking her view. Goodnature said that she saw no black gloves or knives that she remembered, only sticks, bats, and bottles and fists. The group fighting stalled at the corner in front of Saks, and the last time she saw the victim from her car, he was stumbling and trying to get up with the help of two girls who took him down the sidewalk toward the Greyhound station.
At this point, the two officers from upstairs came down to the street to help control the fight, so Goodnature was responsible for going upstairs to take care of the suicidal person, who was then alone. She tearfully explained how, at the doorway to the building where her patient was, a man grabbed her saying, “You have to do something. Go help that boy. They’re killing him.” She said she explained to the man that help was on the way, but that she had a patient upstairs who needed supervision and care. By the time she got upstairs, the paramedic found her patient standing in front of a glass sliding door, looking down onto Carrillo Street. The patient said, “They just killed that boy.” Goodnature explained that from that upstairs window, she saw the victim in the bushes near the back parking lot of Saks.
The most striking part of Goodnature’s examination that Friday afternoon was the first time she had to identify the defendant Juarez as the one to run across State Street and physically engage with the victim. When Dozer asked her if she was confident that she had identified the right individual, she responded, “That’s the boy that came across the street. I recognize his ears.” She went on to explain that her daughter has the same ears, so she was able to so easily recognize and remember them. Goodnature said that she doesn’t remember giving a description of the defendant when she gave her statement in March 2007 because “nobody asked me to describe the boy who ran across the street.” Ultimately, she looked relieved to be able to leave the stand. Juarez’s attorney, Karen Atkins, was spot on when she suggested to the witness, “I’m sure this whole experience was upsetting to you.”
Apart from a young woman who worked at a cosmetics counter in Saks Fifth Avenue who said she witnessed a group of boys running up State Street and throwing a knife into the trashcan outside of Saks, the only other witness new to the afternoon was a Ramirez, who explained how he was stopped in his car at the intersection of Chapala and Carrillo streets, heading toward State Street, when he saw a crowd running in his direction. Once the light changed, Ramirez continued toward State until he saw a group of youths running along the sidewalk next to Saks and cutting into the back parking lot. He quickly parked his car in the entrance to the parking lot and got out to see what was happening. He said that he was affiliated with “a youth-centered group” so this group of young people was of special concern and interest to him. Having left his car, Ramirez said he saw one of the young men he had worked with, squatting in the bushes near the Saks back parking lot. It was Linares. Ramirez explained that Linares “was kind of dazed,” so he walked over and started talking to him in an attempt to figure out what happened. As Linares opened his mouth to speak, blood came out.
“When I saw the blood, I started freaking out,” continued Ramirez, who explained that his brother had been stabbed several years ago. Though his brother survived, the doctors who treated him told the man and his family that, had they been five minutes later in finding him and bringing him to the hospital, his brother would have died from choking on his own blood. With this traumatizing experience in the forefront of his mind, Ramirez explained how he became concerned for Linares’s life, assuming that it was a similar sort of injury with the same danger of blood leading to choking. Ramirez said he saw no blood on the victim but that coming from his mouth, having missed the puncture wound in Linares’s back. Throughout his testimony, he looked desolate as he was required to retell two of the conceivably most traumatizing events of his life: the near-death experience of his brother and the death of a boy he knew and had worked with.
The court adjourned before prosecutor Dozer was able to finish his examination of the man. The testimony is expected to continue on Monday, August 9, at 10 a.m.
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Caitlin Crandell is an Independent intern.