Triple-murder suspect Pierre Haobsh is expected to have a bench trial before a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge rather than a jury trial, the defense attorney said Thursday.
Haobsh, 31, of Oceanside is accused of murdering Santa Barbara Herb Clinic Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han, 57; his wife, Huijie “Jennie” Yu, 29; and their 5-year-old daughter, Emily, at the family’s home on March 23, 2016.
Wearing face masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haobsh and attorneys for both sides briefly made a court appearance in person.
No formal agreement had been reached between the attorneys as of Thursday.
“We do not have something written in stone, but we believe we are going to be in a position where we agree to waive jury, both sides,” said Public Defender’s Office attorney Christine Voss, who represents Haobsh. “We will have several stipulations about the evidence that will shorten the length of the trial, and the (Santa Barbara County) District Attorney’s Office will agree to withdraw their request to seek death.”
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office decided to pursue the death penalty in the case.
Following Voss’ remarks, Judge Brian Hill said, “At least from a scheduling standpoint, that’s a welcome agreement.”
After an agreement has been formalized, the criminal case against Haobsh will be a court trial heard and decided by Hill only.
Haobsh has pleaded not guilty in the case.
In May 2017, details of the murders and Haobsh’s arrest emerged during the preliminary hearing.
All three victims died of gunshots to the head, according to the Coroner’s Bureau.
Haobsh is also being represented by Public Defender’s Office attorney Michael Hanley.
Benjamin Ladinig and Hilary Dozer are prosecuting the case for the District Attorney’s Office.
The agreement of waiving a jury trial needs to be formalized in a document that will need to be approved, Ladinig said.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” Ladinig said.
Ladinig said the attorneys are thinking about starting the trial presentation “on or about” Oct. 25.
The attorneys and Haobsh are scheduled to return to court on Aug. 12 for a readiness and settlement conference, as well as formalization of the agreement to waive the right to a jury trial.
In August, the court hearing is expected to be conducted in person.
Haobsh remained in custody Thursday at the Santa Barbara County Jail, where he is being held without bail.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.