A judge in a Santa Maria gang-related torture and slaying case with seven defendants re-emphasized on Friday his intention for the trial to start in mid-November.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rick Brown also spelled out the remainder of the schedule to ensure that the Nov. 17 starting date for the trial remains on track.
“We’re going to move relentlessly … forward to bring this trial to completion,” Brown said.
Seven defendants will stand trial in the March 17, 2013, slaying of 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra, who was killed in a West Donovan Road house in north Santa Maria, authorities said. His body was found in a U-Haul rental truck located in Orcutt.
The defendants are Ramon Maldonado, Reyes Gonzalez, Santos Sauceda, David Maldonado, Anthony Solis, Ramon Maldonado Jr. and Jason Castillo. Four other defendants, Pedro Torres Jr., Carmen Cardenas, Verenisa Aviles and Robert Stan Sosa, accepted pleas in the case.
The judge on Friday reminded the six defense attorneys plus Ramon Maldonado, who is representing himself, of the upcoming deadlines for submitting and responding to motions so the Nov. 17 trial date remains on track.
“We’re all going to work very hard to be ready to go the 17th,” Brown added.
Brown also shared about plans for the testimony to run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with two 15-minute breaks each day during trial, a schedule developed after consulting judges in other counties with trials that also involved multiple defendants.
“It’s the only way to move a trial like this through to completion,” he said.
Friday’s hearing also involved attorneys discussing access to recordings of the defendants’ jail phone calls and mail.
When Ramon Maldonado questioned why only some mail is included in discovery, or possible evidence, given to him, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen said it’s up to jail officials to decide what mail is passed along. Typically, jail officials remain mum about that process, she added.
“It’s for the security of the institution,” Bramsen said.
Another hearing is planned for Aug. 15 for the judge to rule on other pre-trial matters.
Some attorneys told of scheduling conflicts due to other cases before different judges, but Brown offered to intercede so the attorneys are free for the mid-August hearing — and the schedule isn’t interrupted.
Legal matters in this case are being heard in Santa Maria Juvenile Court because it’s the largest suitable facility to accommodate the multiple defendants and their attorneys.
In March, Brown set the Nov. 17 trial date to give defense attorneys time to sift through thousands of pages of evidence in the case. The trial is expected to last several months.