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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 8:31 am | Fair 45º


First of Six Defense Attorneys Makes Closing Argument in Gang Torture-Murder Trial

Michael Scott says the evidence doesn't point to murder convictions for the men charged with killing Anthony Ibarra in 2013

Defense attorney Michael Scott delivers his closing argument Wednesday in the trial of six men charged with killing Anthony Ibarra in March 2013.
Defense attorney Michael Scott delivers his closing argument Wednesday in the trial of six men charged with killing Anthony Ibarra in March 2013. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Questioning the credibility of prosecution witnesses, the first of six defense attorneys on Wednesday delivered his closing argument in the Santa Maria trial of a half-dozen men charged with torturing and killing Anthony Ibarra two years ago.

Defense attorney Michael Scott, who represents lead defendant Ramon Maldonado, told the jury that the hard evidence doesn’t match testimony given by prosecution witnesses during the trial.

“There are simply too many unanswered questions to convict any of these men of murder,” Scott said.

After 500 exhibits entered as evidence and dozens of witnesses, they still don’t have definitive answers to the questions of who killed Ibarra and why he was killed, according to Scott.

“The hard evidence does not answer any of the critical questions I posed when we started this case,” Scott added.

In addition to Maldonado, also on trial for first-degree murder and several special allegations are his dad, David Maldonado, plus Jason Castillo, Reyes Gonzales, Santos Sauceda and Anthony Solis. 

The prosecution team contends that on March 17, 2013, the men lured the 28-year-old Ibarra to a house on West Donovan Road and assaulted him due to drug debts. Ibarra’s body was later found in a U-Haul truck parked on an Orcutt street.

But Scott said the men showed up at 1142 W. Donovan Road “to kick it.” 

“They went to 1142 to party. They took beer, not weapons,” Scott said, adding the prosecution had described his client as “a stereotypical crazed killer.”

His client may be an accessory after the fact for his involvement in moving the body, Scott said.

“My client didn’t do what he’s charged with,” Scott said.

Ramon Maldonado also is charged with two counts of dissuading witnesses, but Scott said there is no corroboration to the testimony of a brother and sister who claimed the defendant threatened them with repercussions if they went to police.

Defense attorneys have suggested the brother and sister, Angel and Marissa Escobar, who lived at the house and testified for the prosecution, are accomplices to the crime. Both are in the California Witness Relocation and Protection program.

Testimony during the trial revealed that Marissa Escobar went to a fast-food restaurant after the crime, while her brother convinced a neighbor to walk with him toward a convenience store, but  left her en route.

“Why does an innocent person need an alibi?” Scott asked

The defense attorneys also have implicated a co-defendant, Robert Sosa, who took a plea deal and testified for the prosecution about the assault of Ibarra.

“We don’t have to prove who killed him,” Scott said. “We just have to prove there’s reasonable doubt these men had nothing to do with the murder.”

Scott asked if jurors would trust the three witnesses to be house-sitters or to loan them a lawn mower.

“You can’t trust them with little things. You can’t trust them with things as big as a murder charge,” Scott said.

His client rented the U-Haul truck to move the body from the West Donovan Road house because he knew the GPS-tracking bracelet he wore for probation would place him at the site.

“He had to get that body out of there,” Scott said, adding, “It was a simple matter of self survival.”

Scott said the GPS tracking data proves Maldonado had left the West Donovan Road residence and wasn’t near the crime scene when Ibarra was killed. And the fact they rented the U-Haul truck the day after the attack shows the killing wasn’t planned, Scott said.

Before Scott began his closing argument, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen finished recapping the prosecution’s case.

“In this case we have concrete physical evidence that ties each of these men to this crime,” she added.

The first part of Bramsen’s closing argument took up most of Tuesday’s session, during which she spelled out the evidence against individual defendants after noting the jury would have to deliver verdicts against each man.

Solis reportedly had blood on his shoes after the assault of Ibarra and decided to toss them out rather than clean them.

“He got rid of his shoes because he didn’t want any evidence of what was about to be a murder,” Bramsen said. 

David Maldonado is the only one of the men not facing torture allegation, Bramsen said, noting no witnesses said he touched Ibarra.

But he played a role in the incident, beyond driving some of the participants to the house, she added.

“He knows exactly what’s going on and he says nothing,” Bramsen said.

In addition to witnesses’ testimony, she used DNA, fingerprints, GPS tracking and cell phone data to prove the six men had a role in Ibarra’s murder.

“He took his last breath at the hands of the six defendants,” Bramsen said, adding he never left the house where he showed up. “They kidnapped him. They tortured him for hours and they murdered him in cold blood.”

She added that no physical evidence ties Angel Escobar to the master bedroom where Ibarra ultimately was killed.

Closing arguments from other defense attorneys are set for Thursday in Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, where the trial is occurring due to the larger number of participants.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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