Santa Barbara prosecuting attorney Hillary Dozer revealed today that he would seek to prosecute the 14-year-old Santa Barbara Junior High School student accused of killing 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares in Wednesday’s State Street gang brawl as an adult. He also announced that the District Attorney’s office would prosecute the other five defendants charged in the case as minors.
Fourteen is the youngest age state law allows prosecutors to try minors in adult court. The defendant in this case – whose name has not been released – is certainly the youngest in Santa Barbara ever to be charged with murder as an adult. Should Dozer prevail in this – barring any successful challenges by the suspect’s attorneys – it could have profound sentencing implications if the defendant is found guilty. If tried, convicted, and sentenced as a juvenile, the defendant would be incarcerated by the California Youth Authority until his 25th birthday, at the very longest. But if tried as an adult, he could be transferred to adult prison as soon as his 18th birthday, and there serve out a longer sentence.
Dozer said the District Attorney’s office was guided by the gravity of the offense, the lack of self defense by the victim, and the time and place of the attack. In addition, Dozer said there was evidence of planning and premeditation in the attack. That does not mean, he also stated, that there is evidence that the assailants actually intended to kill anyone – let alone Linares – in the assault. “There was clear evidence of pre-planning, which could be considered as evidence of premeditation,” Dozer said.
Dozer declined to discuss any aspect of the defendant’s criminal or gang history, though he said that is one of the factors considered when deliberating whether to file adult or juvenile charges. He also declined to provide any new details of the actual assault and whether the accused assailant knew the victim.
“Gang violence exists often for very random reasons. This is a random gang assault involving young people from two distinct gang interests in the city of Santa Barbara,” he said. Dozer declined to confirm or deny police reports that the accused assailant had in fact confessed to the crime, or to indicate how long after interrogation began that he actually confessed.
Arraignment is scheduled to take place today, Friday, March 16, in the chambers of Superior Court Judge George Eskin. The other defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Juvenile Court, presided over by Judge Tom Adams.