Two men charged with the murders of two graduate students from China made a brief court appearance on Tuesday, with a crowd of supporters shouting messages of love from the audience.
The arraignments of Bryan Barnes, 20, and Javier Bolden, 19, were continued for a month to allow their lawyers time to prepare. The judge denied bail and set June 25 for the next hearing.
He refused to allow the media to photograph them when their lawyers said there were unresolved identification issues. The decision brought whoops of glee from audience members who were warned by the judge to remain quiet.
“Yes,” they shouted at the announcement and when the hearing ended, members of the mostly female crowd called out, “I love you, brother.”
Outside court, they refused to talk to reporters and refused to specify their relationships to the defendants. They had sat quietly in the courtroom for three hours awaiting the hearing.
The men were arrested on Friday in the April 11 killing of 23-year-old University of Southern California (USC) graduate students Qu Ming (瞿銘) and Wu Ying (吳穎) from China, as they sat in a car 1.6km from the campus.
The crime sent shockwaves through the university community.
The men wore street clothes and answered, “Yes sir,” when Superior Court Judge Upinder Kalra asked if they understood the charges against them, and waived the requirement for a speedy hearing. Their cases were assigned to the public defender’s office.
They were also charged with attempted murder in unrelated shootings of three people at parties in South Los Angeles a few months earlier.
Authorities believe the killings occurred during a robbery, leading to special circumstance allegations that make Barnes and Bolden eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The judge noted these were capital crimes in denying bail.
The district attorney’s office will decide later whether to seek the death penalty. Police said shell casings tied the suspects to the shooting of the Chinese students and the other attacks.
In addition to the killing of the students, Barnes and Bolden were also charged with the attempted murder of a 20-year-old man who was shot and wounded at a party on Dec. 3 last year.
Barnes was also charged with one count each of attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm at another party on Feb. 12. He is accused of firing numerous rounds, seriously injuring a woman and a man who was paralyzed. Both victims are in their 20s.
The parents of the Chinese students have filed a lawsuit accusing USC of misrepresenting security at the campus, where nearly one-fifth of the 38,000 students are from overseas, including 2,500 from China. USC says it has more international students than any other US university.
USC lawyer Debra Wong Yang (楊黃金玉) said the university was deeply saddened by the deaths, but found the lawsuit to be baseless.
The school and city police announced new security measures after the slayings and promised more video cameras, escorts and patrols.