All motions for a new trial in the U-Haul murder case were rejected Friday, as the five men convicted of first-degree murder last month were sentenced to life in prison.
"I find the evidence in this case supports the jury's finding," Superior Court Judge Rick Brown said over and over again as he ruled in favor of Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen.
Ramon David Maldonado, David Murillo Maldonado Jr., Santos Manuel Sauceda, Reyes Gonzales Jr., and Jason Michael Castillo were convicted of murdering Anthony Ibarra on March 17, 2013, in a house on West Donovan Road.
Ibarra's body was found in a U-Haul truck in Orcutt two days later. Bramsen argued at trial that he was lured to the house and killed over drug debts.
Prior to the sentencing, Ibarra's mother, aunt and brother read statements, and one written by another brother was read by District Attorney's Office Victim Witness Advocate Terri Zuniga.
"My son did get some justice, but it will never replace what we lost," Ibarra's mother said.
A special allegation of murder by kidnapping also was found true for all five, leading to the sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
The defense attorneys, Michael Scott, Tom Allen, Adrian Andrade, David Bixby and Fred Foss, argued unsuccessfully that jurors should have been given the option of a lesser charge of false imprisonment.
Among the other arguments the defense attorneys for the five made for a new trial were charges of juror misconduct.
The juror, a woman identified only by her jury number, did not disclose during jury selection that her son had been held at gunpoint more than 20 years ago. She testified Friday that she had forgotten about the incident during selection.
Defense attorneys argued that the woman was biased against their clients. Declarations from other jurors, which Brown ruled inadmissible, stated that the juror said "They're all guilty," as soon as the jury went into deliberations.
"It's obvious from her statements that she didn't (consider all of the evidence)," said Bixby, who represented David Maldonado.
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Attorneys also argued that the prosecution's witnesses were not credible.
One witness, Robert Stan Sosa, was originally charged with murder in the case before pleading guilty to kidnapping with a gang enhancement last year. He is scheduled to be sentenced to 15 years in prison June 11. Sosa is Gonzales' younger brother, and their sister is the mother of Ibarra's daughter.
The other two witnesses that the defense cast doubt on are John Doe and Jane Doe, a brother and sister who lived in the house where the murder took place. The pair are now in the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program.
As they did during the trial, the defense attorneys argued that the brother and sister were involved in the crime and that John Doe may be the actual killer.
They also argued that Bramsen did not disclose that Jane Doe was under the influence of methamphetamine when she testified to the grand jury, and that all three witnesses lied repeatedly before the trial.
"You can't let a witness take the stand and lie when you know that they've lied, Judge," Bixby said.
Prior to sentencing, Ramon Maldonado made a statement to Ibarra's family in which he expressed sympathy but denied responsibility.
"These hands, our hands, are not the hands that took the life of Anthony Ibarra," he said, holding up his shackled hands and drawing anger from Ibarra's family and objection from Bramsen before his statement was cut short by Brown.
Sauceda, Gonzales and Castillo also made statements. Neither admitted to the murder, but Sauceda, crying, said that Ibarra was a friend of his.
"I'm a different man than I was two years ago," he said.
Each of the five also was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to a state fund, to be taken out of prison wages.
A sixth defendant in the trial, Anthony Jesus Solis, was not convicted of the murder after only eight of the 12 jurors were convinced of his guilt. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping with a gang enhancement and is scheduled to be sentenced to nine years in prison in July.