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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 17th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 6

Murder case judge admonishes attorneys

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

With 10 suspects clothed in orange or blue and cuffed with padlocks, 10 defense attorneys milling around with nowhere to sit, four sheriff’s deputies, and the metallic echo of voices coming through a too-loud speaker, the Department 9 in Santa Maria courtroom felt small on April 10.

The arraignment hearing for suspects allegedly involved in the March 17 murder of 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra was continued for the third time, but not before veteran district court Judge Rodney Melville shot a few well-aimed remarks at the defense attorneys for not arriving to court on time. While Melville was ready to call the case shortly after 8:30 a.m. that morning, he had to wait until all the attorneys arrived.

“This case has to be handled very efficiently. It’s going to be very complicated, and it’s going to take a lot of resources,” Melville told the attorneys. “This case is not going to drive this courthouse, the courthouse is going to drive this case.”

A third continuance will allow the freshly assigned defense attorneys in the case to come up to speed with their new clients. The 10th suspect, 29-year-old Jason Michael Castillo of Santa Maria, was arrested just two days before the hearing.

Reyes Gonzales Jr., Ramon David Maldonado, Carmen Danielle Cardenas, Pedro Torres Jr., Manuel Santos Sauceda, David Murillo Maldonado Jr., Robert Stan Sosa, Anthony Jesus Solis, and Verenisa Castillo Aviles are also being charged in connection with the murder. Police say all are from Santa Maria, except for Gonzales, who is from Guadalupe.

Cardenas and Torres are being charged as accessories to murder after the fact, while the rest are facing murder charges with special circumstances.

Attorneys were eager to get their hands on the discovery, which hadn’t yet been released because of a protective order filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Melville granted the DA’s request during the hearing.

The order allows defense attorneys and investigators a copy of the discovery, and although lawyers can show their clients, those clients can’t have a copy. Deputy District Attorney Paul Greco explained their reasoning to the court: “Part of what we’re trying to prevent is copies of police reports floating through the jail to other inmates.”

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen told the Sun that, ethically, she couldn’t comment any further on the reasoning behind the protective order, but did say they aren’t expecting any more arrests to be made before the April 18 arraignment hearing.

She also said no decisions were made yet on whether to ask for the death penalty for seven of the defendants being charged with homicide.

The case is being moved into a trial courtroom for the continued hearing, and will be heard by Judge Rick Brown in Department 6.