After weeks of questioning potential candidates, a jury of 12 people plus six alternates has been picked for the huge trial of six men accused in the gang-related torture-murder of Anthony Ibarra in Santa Maria, clearing the way for opening statements to begin next week.

The final alternates were seated Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria before the prosecution and defense attorneys hashed out final logistical issues.

The trial will be held in the Santa Maria Juvenile Court on California Boulevard where opening statements are scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Monday, followed by the presentation of evidence.

The jury selection process began Nov. 17 at the Santa Maria Fairpark due to the huge number of prospective jurors — more than 2,000 — summoned for the trial.

Latter portions of the process occurred at the Santa Maria Court Complex.

The larger-than-usual-pool and longer-than-normal process were due to the expected length of the trial, which likely will stretch into the spring.

Six men and one teenager will stand trial in connection with the March 2013 killing of the 28-year-old Ibarra, who lived in Santa Maria. 

Ibarra’s body was found in a U-Haul truck parked in an Orcutt residential neighborhood.

Charged are Ramon Maldonado; his father, David Maldonado; Jason Castillo; Reyes Gonzalez; Santos Sauceda; and Anthony Solis.

Ramon Maldonado’s teenage son, Ramon Maldonado Jr., will be tried separately from the others.

Four other defendants — Verenisa Aviles, Carmen Cardenas, Robert Stan Sosa and Pedro Torres Jr. — accepted pleas in the case.

In all, the selection spanned eight weeks — with time off for the holidays — and lasted for 28 court days.

The final panel is made up of seven women and five men, defense attorney Addison Steele said.  

The six alternates are evenly divided between men and women, and a member would only move to the jury if one of the original slots is vacated for some reason. 

Also Friday, Judge Rick Brown rejected a defense motion to ban video cameras and audio recordings by the media in the courtroom.

Representatives of KCOY and KEYT had made the request to have cameras in the courtroom, which Steele and other defense attorneys opposed. 

While Brown will allow both still and video cameras in the courtroom, he issued several restrictions related to security matters, and prohibited any images of witnesses, which isn’t unusual in gang-related trials.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at