A preliminary hearing against Daniel Cervantes, David Roldan, Victor Arroyo - all minors - and Miguel Marquez concluded Thursday with Judge Brian Hill’s decision that all four defendants will be brought to trial to face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The victim was Emmanuel Roldan, the 15-year-old stabbed to death on July 4, 2008, along the beach just prior to a fireworks show. He was the brother of defendant David Roldan. According to testimonies from Santa Barbara police officers, none of the four defendants intended to stab Emmanuel Roldan, as they allegedly all associated together in the Westside street gang. However, Hill said there is enough evidence to argue that the defendants did intend to stab a member of the Eastside gang. Hill told the court that Emmanuel Roldan’s murder was a natural and probable cause of the defendants’ confrontation with the Eastside that night, even though the defendants did not mean to harm him. As a result, all four defendants could be held liable for Emmanuel Roldan’s death, regardless of whether or not they delivered the fatal stab wound.
After the hearing, prosecutor Kimberly Smith said, “The prosecution’s theory is that all four defendants were involved in the homicide of Emmanuel Roldan.” In court, however, the prosecution presented evidence suggesting that Arroyo is directly responsible for the murder.
In an interview with Detective Kenneth Kushner that was presented as evidence, defendant Victor Arroyo confessed that it was possible that he could have accidentally stabbed the victim. This confession, however, was not used as evidence. Hill decided on Wednesday that the second part of the interview transcript was not reliable because Arroyo had already asked for his mother twice and had his requests denied. But, in the first part of the transcript, Arroyo admitted that he tried to stab an Eastside gang member. Because this testimony occurred before Arroyo made a second request for his mother, this testimony can be used for the prosecution as evidence.
On Thursday, each of the four defense attorneys argued that their clients merely intended to assault Eastside gang members with a deadly weapon, but not murder them. Their reasoning relied on testimony from Detective Michael Brown. Brown would not provide exact numbers, but he testified that the ratio of gang murders to gang assaults with deadly weapons is very low. Defense attorneys argued that this suggested there was no intent to kill. Brown also estimated that 250 people ranging in age from 13 to mid-twenties are part of the Westside gang.
Adam Pearlman, attorney for the victim’s brother David, argued that his client did not have a knife on him, even though Kushner heard a recording of Roldan tell his fellow gang members that he did have one during the fight. Pearlman argued that his client was “full of it.” His argument was based on testimonies from three witnesses who told officers they did not see David near his brother when the stabbing occurred. Pearlman also mentioned testimony from Detective Jaycee Hunter, who had said earlier that he did not find a knife on David Roldan at the crime scene.
Daniel Cervantes’s attorney, Rafael Amezaga, argued that Arroyo is the only defendant on trial who was armed with a knife on the night of July 4, but not the only gang member armed with one. “There were a number of people on July 4, 2008, who had knives on both sides,” Amezaga said.
Arroyo’s representative Michael Carty claimed that, though Arroyo did have a knife that he used as a weapon against an Eastside gang member, he did not actually intend to kill that Eastside gang member.
Hill responded to Carty that “under your theory, the only way [Victor Arroyo] could be found guilty in conspiracy to commit murder, the murder would actually have to occur.”
The four will next be in court May 21 at 8:30 a.m. as the case proceeds to trial.