Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 20
Anthony Ibarra murder case pre-trial hearings on the move
BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
There’s nothing more irritating to ears than the infamous “pop” of a microphone, followed by an earsplitting squeal, and then dead air.
Such technical difficulties can make it hard to conduct a pre-trial court hearing, especially one in which 11 attorneys need to speak on behalf of 11 defendants.
The pre-trial hearings for the 11 defendants accused of torturing and murdering 28-year-old Santa Marian Anthony Ibarra have been hard to follow, because of the audio quality and because of the mish-mash of clients and attorneys stacked up inside a courtroom that’s not quite big enough.
At the July 18 hearing, which took place in Dept. 8 at the courthouse in Santa Maria, Superior Court Judge Rick Brown said the next hearing would be in a bigger location equipped with better sound equipment.
“It’s obviously very difficult circumstances,” Brown said during the hearing. “By the time we meet again, we will be in very different facilities.”
Part of the reason for better sound equipment is that some of the attorneys want to record the hearings. Transcripts won’t be given out to all 11 attorneys. Instead, they will be kept in the Clerk of Courts’ offices in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara because of copying costs.
In May, a criminal grand jury indicted Ramon Maldonado, Reyes Gonzales, Jr., Santos Sauceda, David Maldonado, Robert Sosa, Anthony Solis, Verenisa Aviles, Ramon Maldonado, Jr., and Jason Castillo on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges. Ramon and David Maldonado, Gonzales, Sauceda, Sosa, Solis, and Castillo were also indicted for the special allegations of lying in wait, torture, kidnapping, and committing a crime to further street gang activity. Carmen Cardenas and Pedro Torres were indicted for accessory to the murder after the fact with a gang enhancement charge.
Ibarra’s body was found in the back of a U-haul truck in Orcutt on March 19. Noozhawk and KEYT recently produced news reports about the gory details of the murder based off of court transcripts from the grand jury trial.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen told the Sun she anticipated many of the defendants would enter a plea at the July 18 hearing. However, no pleas were entered and the arraignment was continued until Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Though Bramsen wouldn’t go into detail about the Ibarra case, she did say that she’s never prosecuted a case of this size before. She said she wasn’t where the hearings would be moved.
Superior Court Executive Officer Darrel Parker echoed Bramsen’s thoughts, but said he was trying to get it resolved by the end of the week.
Parker said Dept. 8, where the previous hearings have been held, is one of the bigger courtrooms in Santa Maria, but it’s still not big enough, and it doesn’t have a jury box. There are bigger courtrooms in Santa Barbara, but Parker said he wants to keep the case in North County.
Some of the possibilities Parker is looking at include the mall, the movie theater, and the Fairpark. He’s also talking to Santa Maria Recreation and Parks, as well as other local government agencies, to try to track down a space. It will need to be a room big enough to hold 24 people comfortably in “the well,” where attorneys and their clients hang out. It must also be accessible to the public, have a private and secure entrance, be van accessible, and have a perimeter that’s fairly easy to secure.
“The Fairpark looks good,” Parker said.
He said it’s definitely big enough to house the trial and, because it’s fenced, it would be easy to secure. Parker said he couldn’t remember a case this big being prosecuted in Santa Maria, but that there have been large cases prosecuted in Santa Barbara County. There is currently a drug case out of Lompoc with 12 defendants.
And it’s not the first time the county has had to switch it up from the courthouse to another location. For the Michael Jackson trial, the county held jury selection in the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center.
The move would just be for pre-trial hearings in the Ibarra case. Parker said defendants could plea bargain or settle out of court, so the DA might not have to prosecute so many people.
“A trial changes things,” he said.