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Santa Maria Judge Denies Defense Motion In Lompoc Fratricide Case

Arturo Herrera Click to view larger
Arturo Herrera

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge has denied a defense request to toss out evidence related to violent videos watched on a cell phone and chats with a jailhouse snitch in the case of a Lompoc Valley man charged with killing his brother.

Judge Gustavo Lavayen said he could not overrule Judge James Iwasko, who presided over the preliminary hearing and determined Arturo Herrera of Lompoc Valley should stand trial.

“I don’t think that there’s an obvious error committed by the magistrate in terms of admitting any of this evidence,” Lavayen said Wednesday afternoon.

Herrera was arrested in July on suspicion of killing his 28-year-old brother, Enrique Herrera,

Sheriff’s deputies responded at about 1:15 p.m. July 4 to a report of an assault on the 4300 block of West Ocean Avenue in the unincorporated area west of Lompoc. 

Deputies found Enrique Herrera inside his bedroom, and determined he had been fatally injured as a result of an assault, Hoover said. 

Arturo Herrera has been charged with first-degree murder and an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon in the death of his younger brother.

On Wednesday afternoon, defense attorney Sydney Bennett sought to have the judge dismiss evidence, then reweigh remaining evidence to determine if enough remained to try Herrera on the charges.

She argued against inclusion of conversations Herrera allegedly had with a jailhouse snitch, saying her client wasn’t given Miranda warning that the statements would be used against him.

“He was deceived,” Bennett said, adding that the waiver of Miranda rights must be voluntary and not through intimidation, coercion or deception.

Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens said those voluntary conversations do not indicate any evidence of coercion.

A transcript shows Herrera said he didn’t want to talk several times while the snitch offered to be quiet several times, Jebens added.

“There’s nothing in the transcript that indicates any form of psychological coercion in this case,” Jebens added.

The defense attorney also sought to have evidence obtained from the defendant’s cell phone excluded, contending he had no part in creating or other connections to the videos.

But Jebens argued the cell phone evidence was pertinent because the grisly videos showing killings were relevant to prove the specific intent required for a murder charge.

He likened the situation to that of a defendant charged with child molestation who was found to have looked at child porn hours earlier. In that case, the evidence would be allowed to show intent, Jebens said. 

After the judge’s ruling to deny the defense motion, he ordered the attorneys and the defendant to return to court Dec. 14.

At one time, the jury trial in the fast-track case was set to begin Thanksgiving week. The trial tentatively has been scheduled to start Jan. 17

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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