A judge on Monday denied an effort to close a hearing for accused cop killer Luis Bracamontes to the press and public, saying the proceedings must remain open.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White rejected the latest motion by public defenders for Bracamontes, who argued that pretrial publicity was endangering their client’s right to a fair trial.
The lawyers are trying to get White to move the trial out of Sacramento because of the publicity, and are expected to argue over the next two to three days that coverage of the October 2014 slayings means the trial must be moved.
They also hope to win permission to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
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Bracamontes has not been of much help in their quest. He has at various times said he wants to plead guilty, wants to face execution and would like to kill his lawyers.
For almost the entire hearing Monday morning, until White called a 15-minute recess at 10:30, Bracamontes sat with his head drooped down on his chest or cocked backward with his eyes closed.
The only times he opened his eyes through midmorning came when his lawyer got up to approach a witness or when the witness accidentally hit the microphone.
Granted, much of the testimony from marketing and public opinion expert Jennifer Franz Monday focused on survey techniques, methods for calling potential jurors and the like.
But Bracamontes’ behavior was markedly different from past hearings, where he has seemed alert and, at times, aggressive and profane.
His head has been shaved since his last court appearance, and this marks the first hearing in memory during which he has not made wisecracks or other comments.
His demeanor changed somewhat when prosecutor Rod Norgaard, who is trying to march him to San Quentin’s death chamber, began questioning Franz about a survey she conducted for the defense measuring potential jurors’ knowledge of the case.
Bracamontes began watching Norgaard intently as the prosecutor, who opposes moving the case out of Sacramento, began asking Franz about her survey.
Franz said her survey found that 75.7 percent of the respondents who were aware of the case already had decided Bracamontes is either definitely guilty or probably guilty, and 51.5 percent think the death penalty is a proper punishment.
Bracamontes, 36, did not speak during the hearing until the lunchtime break, when he walked by White and appeared to say, “You’re doing good.”
Much of Monday’s testimony involved questions about the survey of Sacramento residents’ knowledge of the case, and that topic is expected to continue into Tuesday.
Defense attorneys also are expected to push for permission to enter an insanity plea on their client’s behalf, despite Bracamontes’ past insistence that he be allowed to plead guilty.
He faces trial in October and could be sentenced to death if convicted in the slayings of Sacramento Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer Deputy Michael Davis Jr.
A Mexican citizen who had been deported at least twice and had returned to the country illegally, Bracamontes was passing through Sacramento with his wife when they allegedly began a daylong rampage at the Motel 6 near Arden Fair Mall.
The two were arrested in Auburn later that day. Bracamontes faces the death penalty; she faces life.