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Ramirez Lawyers Present Case for Private Hearing

July 22, 1987|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez Tuesday began the slow, meticulous task of presenting evidence to persuade an Orange County judge to close to the public his preliminary hearing on rape and attempted murder charges stemming from a Mission Viejo attack two years ago.

Orange County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James G. Enright said, "The way it looks now, with all the motions the defense has planned, we probably won't get to any testimony until the first week in August."

The defense attorneys, Arturo Hernandez and Daniel Hernandez,argued to Central Municipal Judge B. Tam Nomoto that the publicity generated by news coverage of a public hearing would make it difficult to select an impartial jury at Ramirez's Orange County trial.

Lawyers for The Times and the Orange County Register filed written objections to closing the hearing. Nancy E. Richman, representing The Times, said the courtroom should be kept open because of "the public's vital interest in the criminal justice system's handling of this particular defendant."

That, she said, "does not translate into a violation of Mr. Ramirez's fair-trial rights."

Ramirez, charged with 14 murders in Los Angeles County and scheduled to go to trial there Sept. 30, is accused of shooting William Carns and raping Carns' fiancee, Inez Erickson, at their Mission Viejo home on Aug. 25, 1985.

Carns, who was shot in the head three times, is still recovering at a Texas rehabilitation facility. Erickson is expected to be the prosecution's key witness.

Judge Nomoto spent much of the day Tuesday in chambers with the lawyers and spent an hour watching videotapes of news coverage of the Night Stalker murders.

Ramirez, brought into court under heavy security, sat quietly through most of the proceedings. But when his lawyers were in chambers with the judge, he made several shooting motions with his finger at one of the news cameramen.

The judge is expected to review defense documents today, after which the hearing will be recessed until Tuesday, when the defense is expected to call a psychologist to discuss the effects of publicity on a defendant's rights.

The defense attorneys made a similar motion to close the preliminary hearing in Ramirez's Los Angeles County case. The move was turned down.

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