Adrian Robles, accused of the Hendry’s Beach stabbing death of Robert Simpson on April 15, received a continuance for his arraignment earlier today, due to a complication with the alleged gang member’s defense attorney.
Superior Court Judge William Gordon changed the date of the arraignment to May 11, at which point Robles will be expected to enter a plea on two criminal charges: murder and being a member of a criminal street gang.
According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the murder charge carries the special circumstances of benefit to a street gang and use of a deadly weapon, along with the enhancement of being a part of a criminal street gang. While murder normally carries a sentence of 25 years to life, Dozer said Robles will face either the death penalty or life in prison if found guilty, though he said it has not been decided which penalty will be pursued.
“I believe that there is proof that this particular crime was done to benefit a street gang,” Dozer said. “The victim was not a gang member. But in the world of street gangs, respect is the biggest issue in existence.”
Much of today’s hearing was focused on the issue of who would represent Robles in his trial.
Though Robles originally requested representation from the Public Defender’s Office, Ben Bycel of Conflict Defense Associates (CDA) instead represented him at today’s arraignment, due to an unspecified conflict of interest between Robles and the Public Defender.
However, Bycel said that he was not qualified to defend Robles against capital murder charges, and asked for a 30-day continuance of the arraignment so that CDA attorney James Crowder, who is qualified to defend capital cases, could take over the defense.
Dozer opposed the length of the continuance, saying the matter could not be put off for 30 days. “We’re left in a limbo position for an amount of time that is unacceptable,” Dozer said, adding that he’s concerned that Crowder, who is already involved in another murder case, would have trouble finding time to represent Robles.
With the consent of Robles, who was separated from the courtroom by a glass screen, Gordon granted a two-week continuance. “I expect to have a lawyer here who is prepared to handle the case and can give a realistic estimate of how long it will take to enter a plea,” Gordon said.
Robles is currently in custody without bail and will appear in court again on May 11.