Accused cop-killer Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes bounced into the courtroom Wednesday and appeared almost jocular as he smiled at the media and greeted them with a “How you guys doing?”
Clearly animated, Bracamontes took his seat at the defense table for what was supposed to be a brief and routine case status conference. But when it was over, Bracamontes stripped all pretense of the ordinary away from the proceeding when he blurted out in court that he killed sheriff’s deputies Danny Oliver and Michael Davis Jr. and that he is ready to be put to death.
“I killed them cops,” Bracamontes said, as Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White stepped down from the bench. “I did it … I’m guilty … I want a date of execution.”
Assistant Public Defenders Norman Dawson and Jeff Barbour tried to hush their client, but Bracamontes insisted on making his point within earshot of an estimated 25 to 30 people who remained in the courtroom in the moments after the official portion of the hearing concluded.
“Execute me whenever you guys are ready,” Bracamontes said.
Bracamontes, 34, faces the death penalty in the fatal Oct. 24 shootings of Oliver, 47, behind a since-leveled Motel 6 on Arden Way, and Davis, 42, on the side of Riverview Drive in Auburn. Bracamontes’ wife and co-defendant Janelle Monroy, 38, also is accused of murder. She also attended Wednesday’s hearing but remained silent.
Prosecutors also have charged the defendants with five counts of attempted murder, two of carjacking, two of attempted carjacking and four other felonies.
If it seems that Bracamontes’ remarks made it easier for prosecutors to obtain a conviction, defense attorneys offered a reminder that in the elongated world of complicated murder proceedings, this case is still just beginning. A legal expert also said the remarks turned everyone in the courtroom into potential witnesses and also may have strengthened the expected defense effort to have the case moved out of Sacramento.
“This is a long and meticulous process, and it’s very stressful for all the parties involved on both sides,” Dawson said afterward. “Obviously for a defendant, it’s even that much more stressful, and the anxiety he is experiencing is the reaction you saw today in court.
“Emotions of the moment really do play a factor and put great stressors on him. Obviously we will continue meeting with him and discussing the case.”
Sacramento County Chief Assistant Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard and Placer County Deputy District Attorney David Tellman, the co-prosecutor, did not comment on Bracamontes’ outburst.
Norgaard and Tellman, however, walked out of the courtroom knowing their case had been bolstered with about two dozen more witnesses who heard all or part of an accused killer’s statement that he committed the crime.
“That,” said McGeorge School of Law professor John E.B. Myers, “is what we call an admission.”
Everyone in the courtroom – spectators, court and media reporters, the clerk, the bailiff, the half-dozen sheriff’s deputies who handled security, the district attorneys investigators – all could be subpoenaed.
Myers said it’s even possible that the DA could call the defense attorneys to testify against their own client.
“They’re percipient witnesses,” Myers said. “What he said was not privileged.”
Myers said the defense lawyers could file a motion to suppress the statement, but “I don’t know of any legal basis” for it to succeed.
“If there’s an outburst in court, it should be admissible later on,” he said. “It’s no different than if he said it in jail to a cellmate. If anything, it’s better documented in court. So it will be used against him.”
Bracamontes still has not entered a plea in the case. It could come as soon as his next appearance, scheduled for March 27. He faces charges of first-degree murder with five special-circumstance allegations: two of killing law enforcement officers, another of multiple murder, one of murder for the purpose of avoiding a lawful arrest and one for murder during the course of carjacking or attempted carjacking.
If he insists on formally entering a guilty plea, the defense team has the option of seeking to have Bracamontes psychologically examined and declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. To make such a finding, the judge would have to determine that Bracamontes suffers from a mental disease or defect that has rendered him unable to understand the charges against him and therefore at a loss to help the lawyers with his defense.
He also could plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which means he didn’t know what he did was wrong. There also is a possibility he could say he was somehow intoxicated and unable to premeditate or deliberate on his actions. Myers said his hope in that case would be to have the jury come back with a second-degree murder verdict.
The defense lawyers had sought to exclude the media from Wednesday’s hearing. Judge White denied the motion but did issue an ongoing order that the proceedings cannot be photographed. Court rules, however, do not prohibit sketch artists from drawing renditions of the proceedings, and one of them attended the hearing.
Defense attorneys are expected to file a motion at some point to have the trial moved out of Sacramento County. Dawson and Barbour said in court papers filed last week that publicity in the case “has been overwhelming, if not unprecedented.”
Myers suggested that Bracamontes’ statements in court Wednesday could assist his lawyers in obtaining a change of venue.
“How are you going to get a fair trial if everybody in Sacramento County has heard about him saying, ‘I done it?’ ” Myers said.
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.