Jury selection for the so-called “U-Haul Murder Trial” is being held at the Santa Maria Fairpark in order to accommodate an extraordinarily large jury pool, many of whom did not respond to a jury summons on Monday to honor their civic duty.
Selection for the Anthony Ibarra murder trial jury is being held inside two large buildings at the Fairpark under extremely tight security after some 2,100 jury summons were mailed out last month.
Its the second highest number issued since four thousand were sent out for the Michael Jackson child molestation trial back in 2005.
“They had anticipated three batches of 700 people coming in over the first three days”, says defense attorney Tom Allen, “obviously today there was nowhere near that number who showed up, a lot of people unfortunately ignored the summons, they either didn’t get it or decided not to respond to it.”
Allen is representing Reyes Gonzales Jr., one of seven defendants charged with murder in the kidnapping, torture and killing of Anthony Ibarra in March of 2013.
Ibarra’s body was found in the back of a rented U-Haul truck left in an Orcutt neighborhood.
The alleged motive for the murder is an unpaid drug debt.
The first few days of jury selection is to hear hardship cases from prospective jurors asking to be excused for financial, medical, school or other compelling reasons.
The goal is to have the prosecution and defense begin questioning remaining prospective jurors starting on Thursday.
“Its designed to try and get a cross-section of the community”, Allen says about the jury pool and summons process, “when a large number here, it looked like 60-70 percent did not show up, its kind of disconcerting and its disturbing because you don’t know why they are not showing up and are we going to have a representative community based serve as your jurors.”
Jury selection is expected to last a couple of weeks and the trial at least through February of next year.
“The court has set a conclusion time of I think at the end of February”, Allen says, “but we will be qualifying the jury through April because you don’t know what’s going to happen, somebody gets ill, the evidence gets protracted or something else could come up.”