The preliminary hearing to determine whether to proceed to trial in the case against 20-year-old Samuel Woodward, who was charged in the murder of Penn student Blaze Bernstein, has been postponed. The hearing was previously set for June 14.
“We were told [by the District Attorney’s office] that the defense wasn’t ready to move forward with the pre-trial, so they postponed it,” said Gideon Bernstein, Blaze’s father. He and his wife, Jeanne Pepper, said the DA called them last week to inform them about the postponement in their son’s murder case.
Orange County DA spokesperson Michelle Van Der Linden confirmed that the hearing was postponed and has not been rescheduled.
"There was a pretrial hearing which was postponed per the defense’s request to allow them the time to review discovery materials and to properly prepare for the pretrial hearing," Van Der Linden said.
Woodward pleaded not guilty and his bail was set to $5 million on Feb. 2, exactly a month after Bernstein went missing while he was home in California for winter break. His body was found near the perimeter of Borrego Park a week later. Woodward was charged with murder on Jan. 17.
Soon after, reports surfaced tying Woodward to a Neo-Nazi hate group. Woodward and the younger Bernstein had been classmates in high school at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana. Bernstein, who was on the pre-med track at Penn but heavily involved in the writing community, was enrolled in his high school’s creative writing conservatory. He was recruited through the Kelly Writers House to apply to Penn.
The elder Bernstein said they had been warned beforehand about the slow pace at which the trial was likely to progress.
“We were told that there are cases that were being tried now that were solved four years ago, so that’s the timeline that we were led to believe is possible in our case, as well,” he said. “It’s hard just because it continues to drag on, but there’s not much I can control over it.
Pepper echoed that sentiment.
“I know that our criminal justice system in California is very slow moving, and it’s for the protection of justice, and I respect the process, so I’m not concerned about it at all,” Pepper said, citing her background as an attorney as the reason for her adjusted expectations of the case’s projected timeline.
“Knowing what I know about this case, I’m very confident that the person who did this will spend a lot of time thinking about what they did, and I’m not going to worry about it because I have no control over it,” she added.
Earlier Sunday, Pepper published her first professional article, entitled “My son was killed. I seek no revenge,” in the Jewish Chronicle. The first-person narrative describes the will to do good that the Bernsteins have sought to embody and spread since their son’s death six months ago.
“But I learned from this nightmare that how I react to what happened to our family and my son is my choice. I can choose life, or I can choose something much less,” she wrote in the piece.
Pepper also recounted a traumatic episode in her childhood from which she learned to be a survivor, never a victim.
“Survivors don’t let the evil of others hold us back. We celebrate our strengths and we use them to show our detractors, the people that would see us destroyed or annihilated, that we cannot be defeated,” Pepper exhorted.