Are potential jurors afraid of reprisal?
November 19, 2014
Santa Barbara County Superior Court has summoned 1,400 potential jurors for a Santa Maria torture-murder trial, but approximately 1,000 of those summoned did not show up to court. [KSBY]
Jury selection began Monday in the trial of six defendants charged with murdering and torturing 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra in March 2013. Several gang members allegedly killed Ibarra at a Santa Maria home and dumped his body in a U-haul truck found in Orcutt as retribution for Ibarra not paying his drug tax and for stealing drugs from the gang to sell on his own.
The superior court summoned more than 2,000 jurors to report to the Santa Maria Fairpark specifically for the Ibarra murder trial. Approximately 700 candidates for the jury are expected to report daily on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
However, only 143 of the 700 summoned for jury duty on Monday appeared, and about 250 potential jurors reported on Tuesday.
Some observers suspect fear of retaliation is a factor motivating individuals not to report to jury duty for what has been dubbed “the U-haul murder trial.”
Those who fail to report to jury duty can face fines of up to $1,500 and must return to court to fulfill their duty.
But, the gang that allegedly killed Ibarra and dumped his naked body in a U-Haul truck may have done so over a debt of as little as $1,200. Grand jury transcripts indicate that Ramon “Crazy Ray” Maldonado, the local drug tax collector and one of the remaining defendants in the case, ordered Ibarra’s murder over a drug tax debt of at about $1,200.
Following the murder, police arrested 11 suspects ranging in age from 15 to 54 years old. Several of those charged agreed to plea deals with prosecutors.
Jury selection is expected to continue for another month, and the trial is expected to last through February.