It’s one week down in the murder trial of 15-year-old Ricardo Juarez, with as many as seven left to go.
Prosecutor Hilary Dozer is in the midst of presenting his case to the jury, painting Juarez-14 years old at the time of a March 14, 2007, gang brawl at the corner of State and Carrillo streets that left 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares dead-as a gangbanger and murderer. The defense, however, insists Juarez didn’t strike the fatal blow, but that another gang member, also named Ricardo, is responsible for the murder. It has been the defense’s argument since just weeks after the incident that there was “significant confusion about what actually happened and who actually inflicted the fatal injuries to Angel Linares.”
The case has followed a long road since then. Prior to the case going to trial, charges against Juarez were at one time dismissed due to a procedural technicality, and before that the defense had subpoenaed all of the local print media on hand that day for their photos. (The Daily Sound and Independent fought the subpoenas, but the Sound eventually budged due to court costs, and The Independent lost its battle in court.) In all, it’s taken 17 months to get to trial, and proceedings could last through the end of October, but since August 7, Juarez has been having his day in court, and a jury of 11 women and five men-alternates included-will determine whether or not Juarez is guilty of murder.
Juarez, usually dressed in a short-sleeved polo shirt and slacks in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom, thus far has appeared calm-occasionally biting his nails, but actively engaged in what is happening in the courtroom. He, along with the rest of those in the courtroom Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, watched a 70-minute videotape monitoring an interrogation room at the Santa Barbara police station several hours after the incident. On the tape, Det. Gary Siegel speaks with Juarez about Juarez’s gang involvement, his nickname, and his actions earlier that day. While the voices were often inaudible for members of the audience, Juarez seemed to be at times comfortable talking to Siegel, at times standing to demonstrate on Siegel where he thought he stabbed Linares. He moved his arm in demonstrating how he stabbed the victim, and also showed Siegel how he held the knife. At the beginning of the interview he denied having a knife, but after being told by Siegel that he was seen holding one, he admitted to it. During a more than 10-minute break, with Siegel not in the room, emotions caught up with Juarez, who began crying, bending over with his head in his hands. Later, he repeatedly hit his head in frustration against a wall.
Dozer, who filed the adult murder charge with a gang enhancement against Juarez, had Siegel on Monday explain terms Juarez used in the video, such as “homies” and “kicking it,” as terms used by gangbangers. Juarez also “claimed” Traviesos, an Eastside gang sub-clan, to Siegel in the tape.
Following Siegel’s testimony, a 15-year-old who identified himself as an Eastside gang member was called to the stand. The boy, through Dozer’s questioning, led the court through the events leading up to the brawl, indicating that for weeks prior-when the gang members learned they’d have a short day of school-they had planned to head to State Street to “get in a fight.” A group of about 25 gang members, all Traviesos, met at Ortega Park and Pennywise Market-both known gang hangouts-and headed downtown. Equipped with various knives, sticks, and other weapons, the group arrived on State Street to find rival gang members standing on the west side of the main corridor. After taunting by each side, the Eastsiders ran across the street and attacked the Westside, the boy testified, refusing to give names of those who wielded weapons. He said that while he didn’t see anyone stabbing Linares, he did see three Eastsiders throwing punches. He also refused, however, to give his fellow gang members’ names in court. He testified that, standing about 10 feet away, he saw the victim coughing up blood.
Dozer had previously called Brent Daniels, a man who said he saw the attack from his second-story office building. At the time he pointed Juarez out to Officer Mark Hunt as the boy he saw attack Linares, but in court said he was too far removed from the day to recall. “As of today, I won’t point anyone out,” he said, assuring the court that on March 14 he was 100 percent accurate in his statement. Hunt later testified that he was indeed directed to Juarez by Daniels.