Jury selection could begin as early as today in the trial against two young men accused of beating and stabbing a Santa Margarita High School football player, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Derek Thomas Jones, 20, of Huntington Beach and Russell T. Scarce, 19, of Lake Forest will be tried in Orange County Superior Court on charges that they joined a crowd last August when Ruben Charles Vaughan III, then 15, was stabbed seven times and beaten unconscious. He also suffered a broken jaw.
Jones and Scarce have pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting bodily injury and possessing deadly weapons.
The case gained public attention when a Municipal Court judge questioned why prosecutors did not file hate crime charges against the defendants.
Moments before the attack, someone yelled a racial epithet, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.
The victim's relatives and community activists also say they believe hate crime charges are appropriate.
Prosecutors, however, twice reviewed the case and both times concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove racial bias motivated the attack, the key element required to prove a hate crime has been committed.
Prosecutors said their investigation indicated the fight was started by students from a rival high school and attribute the slur to "fighting words."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Matthew Anderson said Tuesday that the hate crime issue "will be hashed out in pretrial motions. It's for a judge to decide."