By Andy Furillo
The lawyer for the man accused of murder in the death of a 13-year-old girl in Rosemont Community Park last year said in court Friday that the evidence against her client is "very weak."
Defense attorney Jennifer Mouzis made the characterization in a brief appearance by Ryan Douglas Roberts in Sacramento Superior Court.
The 23-year-old defendant is charged in the March 6, 2012, stabbing, beating and asphyxiation death of Jessica Funk-Haslam, whose body was found in a dugout on a baseball diamond in the park.
Authorities said they charged Roberts, who was arrested last month, based on DNA that was obtained from the homicide scene. His DNA had been put into a statewide database after his arrest in May on suspicion of domestic violence. No charges were filed in the domestic violence case,.
In an interview later Friday, Mouzis said Roberts' DNA was retrieved from a cigarette butt found near the girl's body.
Other than the DNA, "There is virtually no other evidence that I've seen," she said.
Mouzis said she has read through a "significant part" of the 2,500 pages of discovery that has been turned over to her so far.
She said that in the documents she has seen, "there is a complete absence" of anything that suggests a motive to explain why Roberts would have killed the eighth-grade girl. The documents also didn't show anything "that connects my client and the victim," the lawyer said.
Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall, in court during Roberts' appearance in front of Judge Richard K. Sueyoshi, said he would "obviously disagree with the characterization of the weight of the evidence" offered by Mouzis.
At his court appearance, Roberts stood shackled at the waist and legs. The chains are customary procedure in moving inmates around the downtown jail who have been placed in "total separation" status.
Roberts gained the classification, Mouzis said, because of threats that have been made against him by other inmates for the allegation that he murdered a child.
Mouzis expressed concern to the judge about a television camera in court that videotaped Roberts in shackles. She said the chains made Roberts "appear more dangerous than the average person who is on trial for homicide."
She said the depiction of Roberts in chains could taint the jury pool in its assessment of him.
"My reading of the case right now is that it is an exceedingly weak case, and I have great concern that the pretrial publicity will vilify him to such a degree that the jury may not understand the evidence is really not there to convict him," Mouzis said in an interview outside court.
She said "the vilification of my client is not appropriate based on the evidence I've viewed."
A couple hours after Roberts' appearance, Mouzis said she had a chance to go through some of the new discovery that was turned over to her Friday by Kindall.
"I still think it's weak," she said.
Mouzis said Roberts agreed to speak to sheriffs' homicide detectives after his arrest last month. She said he denied killing the girl in what she described as his "very brief" conversation with detectives.