The judge presiding over the trial of Ricardo Juarez – the Eastside teen accused of murdering Luis Angel Linares in a downtown parking lot last year – announced in court on Wednesday that he was taking “judicial notice” of a juvenile court hearing last year when another juvenile admitted to having assaulted Linares with a knife. That teen – Ricardo Romero, a.k.a. “Stomper” – is alleged by Juarez’s lawyers to have been the one responsible for killing Linares in the State Street gang brawl at which Juarez was also present.
The judge’s decision could be interpreted as a small victory for defense attorneys Karen Atkins and Jennifer Archer in their effort to prove that Juarez didn’t necessarily deliver the blow that killed Linares. Stomper is currently being held in Juvenile Hall on criminal charges related to the March 13, 2007 gang brawl. Juarez, who is also in police custody at Juvenile Hall, is being tried as an adult for the killing.
In addition to admitting to the charge of “assault with personal use of a deadly weapon” during his August 23, 2007 hearing, Stomper – who was 13 years old at the time of the fight – also admitted that the assault was committed “for the benefit of a criminal street gang,” that the offense was committed using a knife, and also that said assault had been committed upon Linares.
Judge Brian Hill explained that his decision to take “judicial notice” of Stomper’s testimony meant that the jury should consider the admissions as having “actually happened” and also that they and were “not up for dispute” by lawyers on either side of the aisle. Despite this no-dispute rule, however, before the information was presented to the jurors, prosecution attorney Hilary Dozer voiced his objection to Hill’s decision. While jurors waited outside the courtroom doors, Dozer – who has consistently objected to the defense’s focus on the role Stomper played in the fight – complained to Hill that telling the jury that Stomper “admitted” to the charges against him was a misleading description of what had happened. Dozer argued that Stomper didn’t “admit” to anything – rather, he just had not disputed any of the charges brought against him by the district attorney by pleading no contest to all three of them.
Hill overruled Dozer’s objection, and when the jury re-entered the courtroom, he told them Stomper had “admitted” to the aforementioned charges brought against him in court that day, then later explained what a plea of no contest meant in legal terminology.
Both the prosecution and the defense finished calling witnesses Wednesday, and the Juarez trial will be in recess for the rest of the week. On Monday, attorneys will begin their closing arguments to the jury, which may begin its official deliberations as early as the end of next week.