The future of the case surrounding the murder of UCSB graduate student Jarrod Davidson hangs on the balance this week as the defense pushes for the dismissal of the charges facing two of the suspects.
At the upcoming hearing in the case on Friday, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa will decide whether the district attorney’s office may continue to prosecute Malinda Jones, 50, and her husband, 51-year-old Philip Jones, on felony charges of murder and conspiracy in connection with Davidson’s death. Public Defender James Egar, who represents Philip Jones, said the judge will also rule on a motion that, if successful, would require prosecutors to publicize the evidence they have accumulated against his client.
Davidson, the former son-in-law of Malinda and Philip Jones, was shot at close range in front of his Goleta apartment on July 9, 2004 and died en route to the hospital. His ex-wife Kelee, the daughter of the two suspects, is being held in custody on the same charges as her parents. All three suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charges and remain in custody without bail.
Egar said he and Robert Landheer, who represents Malinda Jones, will ask the judge to dismiss the charges against Malinda and Philip Jones on the grounds that the grand jury indictment of the suspects was based on insufficient evidence.
“There’s an old saying,” Egar said. “‘A skillful prosecuting attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.'”
However, Senior Deputy District Attorney Darryl Perlin said he thinks the charges against Jones will stand.
“Our position is there was sufficient evidence presented to the grand jury, and therefore the motion to dismiss charges is without merit,” Perlin said.
Ochoa will also rule Friday on a discovery motion that would require the prosecution to turn the evidence they have against Philip Jones over to the defense. Egar said he thinks he will be able to prepare a better defense if he knows exactly what the prosecution plans to use in its case.
“The discovery motion is so that we don’t have surprises at the trial,” Egar said. “I fully expect the discovery motion will be granted.”
Counsel for Philip Jones – who suffers from terminal lung cancer – will present an update on the status of his health at the upcoming hearing, Perlin said. He said there is a possibility that the judge will set a trial date for the defendants at the impending hearing as well.
Perlin said Friday’s hearing comes on the heels of Judge Ochoa’s Sept. 15 decision to deny a motion claiming that a recent bout of amnesia rendered Malinda Jones incapable of standing trial.
“The judge denied it, saying that amnesia is not grounds to find someone is not capable of cooperating with counsel,” Perlin said. “In particular, [he said] that her amnesia allegedly occurred at the end of July while she had been in custody since January so for those seven months the defense attorneys had more than enough time to talk to her.”