The arraignment for Ricardo Juarez, the prime suspect in the murder of 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares, has been pushed back to April 27, due to the public defender’s request for more time to review discovery files.
At the Friday afternoon hearing, Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins asked Judge Edward de Caro for the additional three weeks in order to sift through the 500 pages given over from the district attorney’s office. Atkins addressed the court from behind a glass partition in order to stand next to Juarez, 14, who remains with the juvenile authorities with no bail attached. Unlike his first court appearance, at which he wore a green jumpsuit and chains, Juarez was casually attired and will be allowed to continue doing so throughout the rest of the trial.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer (pictured) said the extra time “makes very little difference” to him, and did not challenge Atkins’ request.
The proceedings took only a short while, but a group of about ten 14-year-old girls kept Dozer in the courtyard even longer with several pointed questions about why their friend “Ricky” was to be tried as an adult. Barring a sudden change of the district attorney’s mind, the defense cannot force the court to try Juarez as a juvenile, though Atkins did say she was “going to explore” the options.
Accompanied by their and Juarez’s former sixth grade teacher, Brian McCarthy of Cleveland Elementary School, the girls challenged Dozer, saying a harsh sentence would be “like taking another life.” One charged that Dozer “didn’t know Ricky” like she did, and that her friend had “never been in trouble” before, although he had, she claimed, been involved in gang activity. Another said Dozer should take into consideration that Linares was “gang-related too” and as such, “it was his choice to be there” at the time the stabbing occurred.
While Dozer countered their arguments, explaining that there should not be a different standard set for victims who were engaged in criminal activity, McCarthy-who once taught Dozer’s son-asked the girls why they had not done their part to keep Juarez from sliding into gang life. “He wouldn’t listen to me,” one girl replied.
For his own part, McCarthy said he felt loosely responsible for his former student. He said he was in Jamaica on vacation when he heard about the stabbing, and could only think that had he been in town, Juarez might have been hanging out in his office, as he frequently did, instead of out on the street.
Fourteen is the minimum age in California to be tried as an adult. Juarez will be the youngest person in Santa Barbara County history to stand trial for murder as an adult.
The incident started just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14, when a fight between two groups of young men, allegedly gang-affiliated, broke out at the corner of State and Carrillo. Linares was stabbed multiple times in his head and torso, and later died at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Since then community reaction has been sharply divided, with some-including a few UCSB professors-calling for leniency due to Juarez’s age and with others calling for harsh penalties in order to turn the alleged murder into a message against gang activity. Heated arguments continue, but so apparently have retaliatory actions-one of Juarez’s friends said his sister’s house had several eggs thrown at it.
Though the arraignment may be a few weeks away, Dozer said the trial’s progress will be slow. “Everyone assumes a criminal case goes quickly. If you’re able to get a case like this through in a year, you’re lucky.”