Jurors decide if Jorge Banda is competent to stand trial

August 12, 2008 10:23:51 PM PDT
A south valley man accused of murdering a Tulare County Sheriff's Deputy is having his sanity questioned.Jurors must decide if Jorge Banda is competent to stand trial.

Most of the jurors in this trial have heard about the shooting-death of Detective Kent Haws last December and Jorge Banda's arrest for his murder. Jorge Banda's sister took the stand on Tuesday. In tearful testimony, Jorge Banda's sister told jurors about her conversations with her brother, including what he said to her after he was arrested for killing Detective Haws.

Jorge Banda's brother and sister waited outside a Visalia courtroom on Wednesday. They're witnesses in their brother's sanity trial. In court, Banda's sister, told jurors about the questions he asked her after he was arrested for murder.

Neal Pedowitz, defense attorney: "What questions did he ask you that surprised you the most?"

Maricella Banda, defendant's sister: "What was the death penalty?"

Neal Pedowitz: "What did you say?"

Maricella Banda: "I asked him what he thought."

Neal Pedowitz: "And what did he say?"

Maricella Banda: "He says, I don't know, that's why I'm asking you."

Banda's attorney is trying to convince the jury that his client is not competent to stand trial. He says Banda hears voices and doesn't understand court proceedings.

Neal Pedowitz, Jorge Banda's Attorney: "He lacks the intellect and he also is gravely disabled in terms of his psychosis."

The prosecution disagrees and says Banda knew exactly what he was doing when he shot and killed Tulare County Sheriff's Detective Kent Haws in December 2007. Haws was investigating a suspicious vehicle north of Ivanhoe when the shooting happened.

In court, the prosecutor David Alavesos asked Banda's sister about what Jorge told her about that deadly day.

David Alavezos, Prosecutor: "He told you he shot the officer in the stomach and head?"

Maricella Banda: "Yes"

David Alavezos: "And he had no problem saying that?"

Maricella Banda: "No."

Maricella Banda told the jury Jorge threatened her other brother with a knife several years ago. She said he was not hearing any voices at that time.

Jorge Banda's trial is expected to last until Monday. If he's found competent, he will face a new jury and possibly the death penalty for Det. Haw's murder. If not, he could be sentenced to a mental institution.

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