The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office will be introducing a motion at today’s hearing in the murder case of late UCSB graduate student Jarrod Davidson that may slam the door on communication between the media and those involved in the case.
If approved by Judge Frank Ochoa , the gag order requested by the prosecution will bar the attorneys, investigators, witnesses and all other parties directly connected to the case from speaking to the press about it. The hearing, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, will also determine if two of the suspects in the case are eligible for bail, and whether the third suspect — who is terminally ill — must appear in court for the remainder of the proceedings.
Kelee Davidson — Jarrod Davidson’s ex-wife — and her parents, Malinda and Philip Jones, are the three suspects being held on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shooting that took Jarrod Davidson’s life in front of his Goleta apartment in July 2004.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Darryl Perlin declined to comment on the prosecution’s reasons for requesting the gag order or its other motion to seal the transcript of the grand jury indictment that led to Kelee Davidson’s arrest.
“It would be inappropriate for me to make public comment about the motions that are pending,” Perlin said. “We’re not doing that.”
Public Defender James Egar, who is representing Philip Jones in the case, said the defense has filed a motion in opposition to the gag order.
Egar accused the district attorney’s office and police investigating the case of trying to bias the public against the defendants, and said the gag order is another attempt to prevent their side of the story from being heard.
“We have not, nor will we attempt to, try our case in the press,” Egar said. “The prosecution has made inflammatory comments to the media, and now they are trying to keep the defense from getting a fair chance to respond.”
Since Philip Jones is currently receiving daily chemotherapy treatment for what has been diagnosed as terminal lung cancer, Egar said he is requesting that his client be permitted not to attend the rest of the hearings in the case.
“We’re trying to get him the appropriate treatment,” Egar said. “The DA’s office has been fighting against a motion that would allow Mr. Jones to waive his court appearances. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be granted.”
Despite Egar’s criticism, Perlin said, the prosecution does not have a say in the decision regarding Philip Jones’s court attendance.
“That’s an issue that is up to the judge,” Perlin said. “I don’t know how Judge Ochoa is going to approach it.”
Ochoa will be the fifth judge to preside over the case. Both the prosecution and defense have exercised their legal right to remove judges, with Egar requesting that Judge Brian Hill surrender the case at a hearing last Monday.
“Each side has the opportunity to disqualify a judge without giving a reason,” Egar said. “In our case, [Hill] had been very actively involved in issuing the search warrants for the investigation.”
Perlin said that with a new judge presiding over the case, there is no guarantee as to whether Kelee Davidson and Malinda Jones will be granted or denied bail at the hearing. However, he said California law stipulates that in most circumstances, a person charged with a capital crime — such as first-degree murder — is not eligible for bail.