BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It will be at least two months before a judge determines whether the media will be barred from attending proceedings involving an Inglewood man charged with rape and murder in the killing of a 13-year-old Bakersfield girl.
The next hearing in the case of 24-year-old Armando Cruz was pushed back Wednesday to Feb. 17, with a preliminary hearing set for Feb. 19. The former hearing is when a judge is expected to make a ruling on a motion filed by Cruz’s attorneys to exclude the media from all pretrial hearings involving their client, and a motion for a change of venue.
Cruz’s attorneys have argued it’s unlikely Cruz will get a fair trial because of “prejudicial publicity” the case has generated.
The First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to freedom of speech causes, has filed a brief opposing the defense motion. The brief says the press and public have a presumptive right of access to court proceedings.
Cruz could face the death penalty if convicted of murder with special circumstances. He has pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges and is held without bail.
Authorities say Cruz confessed following his July 5 arrest to sexually assaulting and killing Patricia Alatorre. He said he met the teen through social media and drove from Inglewood to Bakersfield to engage in sex acts with her, according to court documents.
When Alatorre entered his vehicle and struggled against him, Cruz sexually assaulted and strangled her then drove back to Inglewood with her body, which he set on fire behind a construction vehicle, according to the documents. Los Angeles police tracked Cruz to an apartment where they found a white pickup registered in his name. The pickup matched the description of the suspect vehicle released by Bakersfield investigators looking into Alatorre’s disappearance.