Hearing postponed for four murder defendants

2012-02-18T00:15:00Z Hearing postponed for four murder defendantsBy Samantha Yale Scroggin/Staff Writer sscroggin@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Criminal charges were dismissed, and then refiled Friday against four Santa Maria men suspected of murdering a Guadalupe resident, after the prosecutor in the case said she needed more time to prepare.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Megan Ross dropped the murder case and refiled it as a means of postponing the preliminary hearing for Christopher Brewer, Rudy Ramos, Jacob Brewer and Gabriel Almaguer, who were slated to have their preliminary hearing Friday before Superior Court Judge Kay Kuns in Santa Maria.

“The people are unable to proceed at this time and need additional time,” Ross told Kuns. “I just need additional time to prepare my case.”

Ross later explained that she didn’t want, or need, to ask the defendants’ permission to push the preliminary hearing back as would have been required without refiling the case. Ross said that she doesn’t need a lot of additional time.

The Brewers, Ramos and Almaguer are accused of fatally stabbing Alberto Diaz Jr., 32,  the evening of Dec. 9 in a parking lot in the 1000 block of North Broadway, near Bunny Street in Santa Maria.

Details of the incident have not been released.

During a preliminary hearing, a judge typically hears evidence from the prosecution and decides if it is sufficient to order the 

defendant or defendants to stand trial on the charges as filed. The hearings can be like mini trials, where evidence surfaces that has not previously been released to the public. 

However, the standard of proof required for a judge to hold a defendant to answer charges at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing is much lower than the standard of proof required to earn a conviction in trial.

David Bixby, defense attorney for Christopher Brewer, requested more of an explanation as to why Ross was asking to continue the preliminary hearing, but Ross said she was not legally obligated to provide more information.

A short time later Friday, the four defendants were arraigned, or formally charged, in the refiled case by Commissioner John McGregor in a courtroom  downstairs from Kuns’s. All the defendants entered not-guilty pleas to the charges against them, and McGregor scheduled a new preliminary hearing date of March 1.

That hearing is expected to last about the duration of the court day, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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