Santa Barbara resident Adrian Robles will appear in court today for allegedly stabbing UCSB alumnus and former Daily Nexus photographer Robert Burke Simpson.
20-year-old Robles pled not guilty earlier this month to charges that he murdered Simpson on April 15 at Hendry’s Beach in front of hundreds of people. Today, the court plans to decide upon a date for the proceedings.
Prosecutors claim that the crime was gang-related and Robles’ defense attorney, Steve Balash, said any evidence supporting this conjecture could increase penalties for his client.
“This special circumstance makes him eligible for the death penalty,” Balash said.
Robles’ trial was previously postponed on April 27 due to a conflict of interest between Robles and the Public Defender. Apparently a woman who is being held as an accomplice in Simpson’s murder, 19-year-old Brittany Weiler, had already been defended by the same public defender’s office, which the court deemed a conflict of interest.
However, Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer said now that Balash, a private defense attorney, has been hired to represent Robles, the trial can get back on track.
“I’m glad that Balash was appointed so we can proceed with the case,” Dozer said.
However, Robles’ possible gang-affiliations could further complicate proceedings and push the trial well into the summer.
Balash has worked on several gang-related cases during his career. He said tattoos, criminal records and physical appearance could all be used as evidence by the district attorney to prove that Robles was a member of a criminal gang.
“Gang members are focused on representation, are all about territory and the gang is for life,” Balash said. “There are a lot of initiations. I think it’s a macho thing.”