After a remote proceeding Wednesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, triple-murder suspect Pierre Haobsh’s defense lawyers now have an upcoming meeting via Zoom with their client amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Haobsh, 30, of Oceanside is accused of murdering Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han, 57, founder of the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic; his wife, Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29; and the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Emily.
The victims’ bodies were found wrapped in plastic and duct-taped in the garage of their Goleta-area home on March 23, 2016.
According to the Coroner’s Office, autopsies determined that all three died from gunshots to the head.
Haobsh pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2017.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit on Wednesday, Haobsh appeared via Zoom conferencing from a room at the Santa Barbara County Jail because of the coronavirus pandemic. He also wore a face mask for protection against COVID-19.
Haobsh is being represented by Public Defender’s Office attorneys Christine Voss and Michael Hanley.
The purpose of Wednesday’s proceeding was to facilitate a one-on-one meeting via Zoom, so public defenders can virtually communicate with their client and perform screen-sharing capabilities for documents.
The attorneys plan to “discuss what we need to discuss” for the case, Voss said.
A scheduled Zoom meeting is expected to occur early next week with the public defenders and Haobsh. The defendant in the case is expected to attend from a room in the County Jail.
Voss said having access to the “Zoom room will help us substantially to be able to have meaningful conversations.”
Pre-pandemic, the public defenders would spend two to three hours once a week during a so-called contact visit with Haobsh, Voss explained.
“These are difficult times,” Voss said. “We are all challenged by everything presented in front of us.”
The county District Attorney’s Office decided to pursue the death penalty in the case, which is being prosecuted by Hilary Dozer and Benjamin Ladinig.
“We are 55 days out from my estimation of the trial call” in October, Ladinig said. “We need to be prepared” next week “to address if that’s a viable trial date given the current pandemic situation — and if not — make adjustments accordingly.”
There are “hundreds of witnesses who need to be subpoenaed,” and accommodations for location of the jury selection, Ladinig said.
It’s common for trials to get postponed for assorted reasons.
Haobsh is scheduled to return to court next week, so the public defenders can provide an update on the Zoom functions, and attorneys for both sides can discuss the timing of the trial.
“Mr. Haobsh, we will see you next Tuesday,” Judge Brian Hill said.
Haobsh responded, “Sounds good. Thank you.”
Haobsh remained in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail on Wednesday, where he has been held without bail.
Just like the court proceeding in late July, attorneys on both sides participated via the online meeting platform on Wednesday. Clear plastic barriers separated the judge and court staff inside the retrofitted courtroom at the Anacapa Division of Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Face coverings were worn inside the courtroom, and signs were posted that read, “Seat unavailable. We are practicing social distancing.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.