The 14-year-old junior high school student accused of fatally stabbing 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares during a sprawling State Street gang brawl Wednesday afternoon made his first courtroom appearance at about 2:12 p.m. Friday afternoon. Dressed in a dark green jail jumpsuit with a cable of chains wrapped around his waist, the most striking fact about the defendant was his glaring youth. With copper-colored skin and short black hair, he looked like one of any number of the hundred kids that populate Santa Barbara Junior High School’s playgrounds or ball fields five days a week.
He’s listed as 14-years old, but according to police records, just barely. He celebrated his birthday within the past month. The fact of his age could determine where the defendant will spend much of his future days and years.
Fourteen is the absolute youngest that California’s Prop. 21 – the statewide ballot initiate that allows prosecutors to try minors as adults – allows. Prosecutor Hillary Dozer, (pictured above) the gang specialist within the District Attorney’s office, announced Friday that he would prosecute the defendant as an adult, making him the youngest defendant ever so charged in Santa Barbara history.
Defense attorneys Raymundo Montes De Oca and Jennifer Archer – both with the Public Defender’s office – said it’s too soon to comment on whether they will challenge Dozer’s decision to prosecute the defendant as an adult. Outside the courthouse, Montes De Oca held up a thin green folder, explaining that was all he knew of the case so far. Inside the courtroom, he asked acting Judge Edward DeCaro to continue the arraignment scheduled for early Friday afternoon. De Occa said he needed more time – three to four weeks – to conduct discovery.
Prosecuting attorney Dozer offered no objections and suggested the arraignment be postponed until April 6. De Occa and DeCaro both concurred. When the judge explained to the defendant that this meant he’d have to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days, the 14-year-old spoke the one and only word he would utter in court that day. “Yea,” he said.
Afterwards, he was ushered out of the court through a side door by two probation officers wearing shiny, bright blue windbreakers. Afterwards, the boys’ parents – his mother carrying a new born in a portable car seat – exited through the back.