Superior Court administrator Alan Slater agreed Wednesday to turn over to attorneys of convicted murderer Marcelino Ramos the names and addresses of some 20,000 people who were called for jury duty earlier this year.
The attorneys have been seeking the list to study whether Latinos are adequately represented on Orange County juries. Now that they are going to get it, however, the question remains: Which side actually gave in?
Convicted of Murder
Slater said he never objected to giving defense attorneys names and addresses but didn't want to provide other personal information about the residents on the jury panels.
Attorneys from the public defender's office, who represent Ramos, say they never wanted more than names and addresses to begin with. Ramos, convicted of first-degree murder, faces a retrial in the penalty phase of his case.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey, who was hearing the dispute in his courtroom Wednesday, left the bench and waited in his chambers while the two sides worked things out.
"It turns out we weren't in dispute but we didn't know it," said Deputy County Counsel Ed Duran.
Actually, both sides said later there was a dispute. Deputy Public Defenders Joe Baruch and Thomas Havlena contend that the county counsel's office--which was joined by the district attorney's office--agreed to turn over the names and addresses only after studying the law and determining that the public defender's office had a right to them.
Slater and Duran contend that Deputy Public Defenders Baruch and Havlena backed off from an effort to get the complete file on the jury panels because they knew they couldn't win. In court papers, Baruch and Havlena asked for names, addresses, job location and occupations of those on the panels but said their request was not limited to that.
"We interpreted that to mean they wanted everything we had, and we didn't think we should have to do that," Duran said.
Sentenced to Die
Ramos, now 28, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber for the 1979 execution-style slaying of an employee of a Santa Ana Taco Bell restaurant during a robbery.
His death penalty verdict was overturned by the state Supreme Court last year, and he faces a retrial on the penalty phase of his case.
Baruch, who will be Ramos' trial attorney, contends that his own experience in Orange County courts shows that there are often no Latinos or no more than a few who are on jury panels. Baruch claims Ramos cannot get a fair trial unless there is an adequate representation of Latinos on the jury panel.
The public defender's office has contracted with Edgar W. Butler of the department of sociology at UC Riverside to conduct a study based on the number of Latinos among the people on the list Slater will provide.
The jury panels are from March, April and May of this year, the names selected at random by Slater's office from lists provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Registrar of Voters.
Butler said he would pick a computerized random sample, probably 4,500 names, taken from the 20,000 Slater gives him in the next two weeks.
"We want to see if those being asked to serve on juries actually mirror this community," he said.
The 1980 census figures show the county's population to be about 14% Latino. But Baruch claims that figure is closer to 20% now.