Not deep into day five of The People v. Ricardo Juarez, prosecutor Hilary Dozer had the jury removed to inform the court that someone in the audience allegedly made an intimidating gesture toward his witness. That witness - a 15-year-old former Eastside gang member - later admitted that he was aware of threats made for testifying on the stand.
It appeared that the mother of the 15-year-old pointed out the gesture to an investigator for the District Attorney’s office, who in turn told Dozer. Dozer said the actions came after the witness identified Juarez as the one who discarded a knife in a trash can near the scene of the murder of Luis Angel Linares on March 14, 2007. The alleged intimidator then stood up, shaking his head at the witness, and walked out, Dozer said.
“There are subtle actions that have an effect,” he said. “There are tensions on the street as a result of this particular case.” He said there have been injuries as a result of testimonies in the case and noted it was more than a “subtle coincidence” that the unknown person’s actions happened at that particular moment of testimony.
Defense attorney Karen Atkins chimed in to assure the court that neither Juarez nor his counsel had anything to do with the incident. “We want him to be forthcoming with what he knows and not to be intimidated,” she said.
Superior Court Judge Brian Hill told the witness as well as the bailiffs and others in the courtroom to immediately tell him if such a circumstance arises again. The case will be “unimpeded by any sort of threats or intimidation,” he said.
Later, with additional security and the jury of 11 women and five men - four of which are alternates - back in the courtroom, Dozer asked the boy, whose name The Independent is withholding at the request of the prosecutor, if he was aware of threats being made for being in the courtroom and testifying. He said he was aware, but not able or willing to tell who made those threats. He said he probably will be called a rat for testifying and for saying something he’s not supposed to because he’s involved with the Eastside gang. The consequence for being a rat is “getting jumped anytime they’re seen,” he said, but also indicated he was not afraid.
He was afraid enough to not name names in court, although he did provide information on both Juarez and another Ricardo nicknamed “Stomper.” The defense is alleging that “Stomper,” not Juarez, made the fatal stabbing blow to Linares.
While he testified that Juarez was one of two or three people he knew to have possession of a knife, he said he didn’t see the defendant stab the victim. He also testified that neither Juarez nor “Stomper” were in the back of Saks Fifth Avenue, where Linares was chased down and attacked. He was initially stabbed in front of the department store at Carrillo and State Streets, and was chased down while running away. The 15-year-old Eastsider said he didn’t see anyone stab the victim, but saw three people punching him.
While on Tuesday the boy testified that a fight had been planned for weeks, he said Wednesday that there was no discussion or plan to use the knives in the fight, and that he didn’t believe there was any intention to use the knives. Co-defense counsel Jennifer Archer, whose client is facing murder charges with gang enhancements tacked on, asked the witness if Juarez was a gang member the day of the crime. “I think so,” he said, although in the preliminary hearing he said “I don’t believe so.” The boy said he was being truthful at the time of the prelim.
Following the Eastsider’s testimony, a 15-year-old rival gang member from the Westside reluctantly testified Wednesday afternoon to witnessing Juarez stab Linares. Through a long series of “yes” and “no” answers to questions and restated questions, attorneys Dozer and Archer prompted the witness to say what he saw on March 14 from his position across the street from the driveway to the Saks Fifth Avenue parking lot.
At first the witness denied association with Eastside or Westside and said he had not heard those terms being used during the event. However, later in the testimony he noted that he lived on the Westside and was hanging out with Westside gang members at the time of the stabbing. But he said he had not planned on being involved in a gang fight that day and was unarmed.
The witness was walking along State Street from a friend’s house to McDonald’s after a shortened day of school at La Cumbre Jr. High when he noticed a bunch of people fighting on State Street near the intersection with Carrillo. He recognized some of the individuals present from school and he knew Juarez’s face by name.
He testified that he saw “Nacho,” Linares’s nickname, being stabbed on the ground in front of Saks. He affirmed that he saw a knife being swung down towards Nacho and watched the knife make contact with Nacho’s rear rib.
After saying that yes, the person he saw stab Nacho was in the courtroom, Dozer asked him to physically point to the individual. But the witness sat unresponsive. After a long pause with all eyes from an expectant courtroom on the witness, he did not move. Even with continual prompting by Dozer, such as confirming he identified photos of Juarez as the stabber and agreeing he told a friend, “Ricky stabbed him,” the witness still never physically pointed his finger at Juarez.
The next witness of the afternoon was Darin Seigel, who was at a doctor’s office on the second floor of a building across from Saks’s driveway. He was drawn to the window by the screaming and yelling commotion on the street. As he watched out the window, Seigel said he observed a gang fight and immediately informed the officers who were in the hallway of the building.
He saw various juveniles fist fighting, hitting each other with bats, and girls pulling each other’s hair. Of multiple victims that Seigel noticed, his focus was on one who was assaulted toward the State Street front of Saks. The blow caused the victim to fall to the ground. Seigel then saw him get up and run away towards the Saks parking lot while he was being pursued the aggressor. In the midst of the chaos of the event, Seigel said he saw a metallic glint as the sun reflected off of a medium sized metal object which repeatedly thrust in a stabbing or punching motion towards the victim.
Testimony will resume Friday at 9:30 a.m. in Department 2.