Joshua Daniel Smith faced a judge Monday in the killings of two men found shot and set ablaze last June near Roseville as prosecutors laid out special circumstances that could mean the death penalty for the Sacramento man.
Smith’s arraignment will resume Tuesday in Placer Superior Court in Auburn before Judge Angus Saint-Evens, when Smith, 38, is expected to be assigned an attorney.
Smith sat at the end of a row of in-custody defendants waiting for his turn before Saint-Evens inside the judge’s Placer County jail courtroom, eyeglasses perched atop his head, tattoos along his neck and above an eyebrow. He faces a string of charges tied to the deaths including two counts of murder and that he used a gun to commit the crimes.
Prosecutors also allege that Smith has gang ties, that he committed the crime in service to the Southside Park Norteños criminal street gang, and allege as a special circumstance that he lay in wait before firing the shots and setting the two men on fire.
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Prosecutors say Smith carried out the brutal slayings of Jason John Benson, 33, and Warren Alexander Galsote, 34, on June 25, 2015. Both men were shot in the head on rural Annabelle Avenue near Roseville and Granite Bay and set ablaze. Prosecutors alleged Smith targeted Galsote because he witnessed a crime.
A neighbor on Annabelle Avenue rushed from his home to put out the fire only to discover the two men, soaked in gasoline, investigators said. The men died two days later at an area hospital.
Defense attorney Martin Jones of Madera-based firm Ciummo & Associates, Placer County’s contracted public defender, asked Saint-Evens to delay Smith’s arraignment to March 28. He said the firm had reached the negotiated limit of homicide cases its attorneys are able to accept in Placer County.
Saying he was “very uncomfortable” with granting a delay, Saint-Evens ordered Smith and attorneys to return Tuesday to select defense counsel and complete the proceedings.
Smith was arrested Thursday and transported to Placer County from the Sacramento County jail, where he had been held on other charges since July, according to a Placer County Sheriff’s Office news release. A no-bail warrant for his arrest was issued by Placer County in February, sheriff’s officials said.