Aug. 21—A Kern County Superior Court judge ruled Monday she doesn’t have jurisdiction to adjust the bail of a man accused of killing a corrections counselor — unless a defense attorney can prove otherwise.
Defense attorney Timothy Hennessy sought to address defendant Sebastian Parra’s bail, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Benny Alcala Jr., 33. However, the Fifth District Court of Appeal halted all criminal proceedings for Parra’s co-defendant because The Californian is appealing a ruling ordering it to turn over unpublished notes created by a reporter when interviewing Parra.
It was previously unclear whether Judge Elizabet Rodriguez could hear arguments about Parra’s bail because of the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s halted proceedings for the co-defendant Robert Roberts. The order, issued in May, did not mention whether Parra’s case was affected by the stay but did say the “entire proceeding” was stopped, Rodriguez said Monday.
Rodriguez noted Hennessy may consult with the Fifth District Court of Appeal to get its input. Parra may also petition the Fifth District Court of Appeal for relief about his bail, Rodriguez said.
Parra and Roberts are due back in court Sept. 13 for an update on the case.
Deputy Public Defender Lexi Blythe, representing Roberts, filed subpoenas seeking reporter Ishani Desai’s unpublished notes written while interviewing Parra in jail. Rodriguez ordered The Californian to turn over the notes.
The Californian’s counsel, Thomas R. Burke, argued the newspaper is protected by the First Amendment and California’s Shield Law from disclosure. He also argued everything of substance is included in the published story — which is available for anyone to read — and turning over the notes will have a chilling effect on reporters’ abilities to cover stories.
Blythe said the notes are essential to craft her defense of Roberts and The Californian’s news coverage isn’t affected because the newspaper can go interview others.
After being held in contempt of court, The Californian appealed Rodriguez’s ruling ordering to turn over notes.
You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.