Ten of the 11 defendants in the Anthony Ibarra murder trial appeared in Santa Maria Juvenile Court on Thursday, a new venue for the hearings.
While the court proceedings didn’t proceed very much, the courtroom seemed to work well for the court and attorneys on both sides. Darrel Parker, executive officer of Superior Court, chose the site late last month after defense attorney’s requested more space than the Santa Maria Courthouse could provide.
“The Sheriff’s Department did an outstanding job making sure that security was high that the facility was very safe for everybody,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen said. “I don’t think it could have been done better.”
The case shrunk by one defendant since the last hearing when Carmen Cardenas, 28, pleaded no contest to charges of accessory to murder after the fact. Bramsen said Cardenas was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, which included a gang enhancement.
That has been the only decision in the case against the 11 people charged in the murder of 28-year-old Ibarra, whose body was found March 18 in a U-Haul truck in Orcutt. The prosecution alleges the defendants tortured and fatally stabbed Ibarra at a West Donovan Road home the night before.
At Thursday’s hearing, the 10 remaining defense attorneys argued that they need better access to their clients and need to be allowed to utilize their laptop computers and tablets at county jail in order to properly defend their clients.
Attorney Steven Balash filed a motion with the court requesting use of his electronic tablet during non-contact visits to Santa Barbara County Jail. All of the attorneys joined in on the motion arguing current county jail policy prohibiting electronic devices from being brought into the Santa Barbara holding facility prevents them from doing their jobs.
County Counsel Kevin Ready told Judge Rick Brown the reason for the ban is to prevent inmates from communicating with people outside the jail. He said electronic tablets and laptop computers could facilitate that kind of communication.
“You can not bring electronic devices into any jail that I know of in the state,” Ready said.
The defense attorneys successfully lobbied Judge Brown to be allowed take their laptops and tablets to jail interviews.
They also argued that part of the reason the trial is moving so slowly is because of the jail’s restrictive policies about arranging visits with their clients. Two attorneys said it has taken them three to four weeks to gain access to their clients. Others complained that it can take 20 to 45 minutes per visit for their clients to reach the interview rooms.
Sheriff’s Commander Darren Fotheringham said he would work with them to improve access.
The defendants are due back in court on Oct. 18 to continue the arraignment hearing.
“It’s just part of the process. When you have 10 lawyers it’s not going to go exactly like you want it,” Bramsen said, trying to be patient with the proceedings. “Now we’re coming close to six months into this since the grand jury, longer than that since we originally filed it,” she said. “Hopefully, next time we will get the defendants to enter not guilty pleas I would expect and then proceed to trial or readiness and settlement.”