By Leila Katibah
SANTA BARBARA, CA – “Educate me on the relevance between the burglary of a dirty bookstore and its relationship to a homicide,” Deputy Public Defender Douglas R. Hayes asked Judge Brian Hill the morning of Sept. 21 during a pretrial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Later in the proceeding, Judge Hill denied PD Hayes’ pretrial request to have separate jury trials on different charges, citing “judicial economy.”
A pretrial conference is set for Oct. 1, and a jury trial will commence within 60 days of Oct. 5 for Isaiah Ramirez Alexander, charged with five felony counts, including murder in the first degree in a fatal shooting at Pacifica Suites in Goleta on Feb.10.
Alexander is also being charged with two counts of residential burglary, one count of commercial burglary, shooting at an inhabited dwelling and vehicle, and several enhancements due to prior convictions committed while being out on bail for an ongoing open case.
Investigators charge the homicide was not random because the accused and the victim were familiar with each other, and emergency alerts were sent to UCSB students to avoid the area as the hotel has been used for overflow student housing.
The crimes occurred over the span of five days, beginning on Feb. 9 with a residential burglary, to Feb. 14, when Alexander was apprehended by law enforcement during the commercial burglary.
“Do you really think a commercial burglary is going to create prejudice against your client in terms of the homicide charges, which are much more serious?” asked Judge Hill to DPD Hayes.
Hayes argued the homicide was an act of self-defense, saying “my client committed no crime,” and that including the charges of commercial burglary in the same trial as the homicide charge will “paint my client ugly” and foster prejudice among the jury, noting the burglary “doesn’t relate to this other crime in any fashion.”
Deputy District Attorney Kevin J. Weichbrod argued “there’s evidence relating the scene of Mr. Alexander’s arrest with the residential burglary as well as commercial burglary, and he also made statements at the scene after being arrested by officers,” who will be testifying as witnesses during the jury trial.
DDA Weichbrod also cited the matter of judicial economy, referring to efficiency in court operations, as the “cross admissibility of both evidence as well as testimony at the scene with regard to both crimes” means that the same witnesses would be used if Judge Hill were to permit separate trials for the different charges.
Judge Hill interjected, saying “the fact of the commercial burglary would not be admissible,” rendering it irrelevant to the homicide case.
“It would be irrelevant except that the defense has put forward that they’re going to be proceeding on a self-defense argument,” responded DDA Weichbrod. He said a self-defense argument prompts an assessment of the mental state of the accused.
DDA Weichbrod continued, “Mr. Alexander murdered somebody supposedly in self-defense, and is out committing crimes at the same time.”
He argued the accused could have “gone to law enforcement and said, ‘I’m worried for my life,’” rather than commit a burglary days after the homicide.
Judge Hill believed there was still limited cross admissibility regarding evidence, telling DPD Hayes “however, I don’t see that there’s any prejudice whatsoever to your client, attaching this relatively innocuous commercial burglary charge to the homicide cases.”
DPD Hayes retorted it would be “one more crime that the jury would look at,” prompting them to think, “Is this a crime spree?”
DPD Hayes continued, noting both he and his client “object to any reference to the dirty bookstore,” prompting Judge Hill to conclude that his concern of prejudice relied on the fact that the commercial robbery occurred in an adult bookstore.
Judge Hill professed the close relationship of the times of the alleged crimes “eliminates any possibility your client was in a different jurisdiction or was not there at the scene,” and retorted that the burglary of the adult bookstore was relevant to the homicide because it is the same defendant, the burglary occurred four days after the alleged homicide, putting them in the same jurisdiction.
DDA Weichbrod added, upon arresting the defendant for the commercial burglary, arresting officers obtained items relating to the residential burglary, specifically the clothing he wore during the commission of the residential burglary and homicide that occurred on Feb.10.