DA Stops Pursuing Death Penalty in 2004 Murder Case

Now Seeking Life Without Parole for Robert Ibarra

The District Attorney’s Office is no longer seeking the death penalty against Robert Ibarra, prosecutor Kim Smith announced in court yesterday morning in front of Judge Brian Hill.

Instead, the office will seek life in prison without parole for the man’s alleged involvement in the October 2004 murder of Elias Silva, who died after being stabbed dozens of times in Goleta. Santa Barbara County currently has 10 people on Death Row, the most recent to be sentenced being Joshua Miracle, who pleaded guilty to Silva’s murder and was sentenced to death by a jury in 2005.

Miracle and Ibarra were arrested in San Diego driving in Silva’s stolen car, and authorities allege Ibarra had a leg injury consistent with blood evidence found at the scene of the crime. The two were also allegedly placed by witnesses at the scene around the time of the murder. The DA’s office said not long after the arrest that it would seek the death penalty.

Steve Balash, Ibarra’s attorney, said he gave a presentation on the case to the DA’s office in January. “This defendant does not deserve the death penalty,” Balash said Tuesday afternoon, calling the decision “reasonable and just.”

District Attorney Joyce Dudley said she met with her office’s executive staff, prosecutors, the victim’s family, law enforcement officials, and Ibarra’s attorneys, though she wouldn’t expand on what exactly factored into the decision — which is solely up to her office to make in a murder case with special circumstances — because it is a pending case. Smith also wouldn’t elaborate on the decision as the case heads to trial.

The decision tremendously simplifies nearly all aspects of the case, from the number of defense motions filed, to jury selection, to the trial, to the penalty phase, should Ibarra ultimately be convicted.

The case is one of the oldest pending prosecutions at the DA’s office. There are currently no pending death penalty cases in Santa Barbara County. Jesse James Hollywood, sentenced to life without parole in early 2010, was the last to be tried in a capital case. The prosecutor in that case, Joshua Lynn, was also on the Ibarra case until he was fired from the DA’s office last year. Smith, who was assisting as a second chair on the case, took over from there.

Ibarra’s trial is now set for May.

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