A judge ordered Samuel Woodward be held without bail while standing trial for the murder of former Penn student Blaze Bernstein, adding that she believed Woodward could represent a danger to the community if released.
The court had previously set his bail at $5 million.
Judge Kimberly Menninger's order came at the request of prosecutors, who motioned to increase bail in light of the addition of the hate crime enhancement. The changes took place at an arraignment hearing in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Calif. on Friday.
Woodward once again pleaded not guilty to murder and denied the enhancement.
Woodward was represented by a public defender. During Woodward’s last appearance in court in September, his previously retained attorney Ed Muñoz asked to be removed from the case.
Woodward and Bernstein were classmates in high school at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana. Bernstein was a sophomore at Penn when he went missing while home for winter break. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department filed the murder charge two days after Bernstein's body was found near the perimeter of Borrego Park. He had been stabbed over 20 times.
In a preliminary hearing in September, an Orange County judge ordered Woodward to stand trial on murder and hate crime charges. Prosecutors presented evidence including DNA results from blood stains on Woodward's possessions and a plethora of homophobic and anti-Semitic content on Woodward's cell phone. Bernstein was gay and Jewish.
Muñoz did not present any witnesses during the hearing but contended that Woodward was sexually confused, socially awkward, and had autism.
If convicted, Woodward could face up to life in prison without parole with the sentencing enhancement of a hate crime. Another pre-trial hearing is scheduled to take place on Jan. 25.
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