Murder trial begins in halfway house attack

April 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A convicted criminal is now on trial for murdering an employee at the halfway house where he was staying six years ago. Jerry White had a history of crime and bad mental health.

White's life of crime came to an end here on a hot September night in 2007. Police surrounded a Central Fresno halfway house for reports of a stabbing. A fight over food was the motive. White was the suspect.

After the attack, police found the victim lying in a driveway, dying from his wounds and they didn't have to go very far to find their suspect. White was sitting at a bus stop just across the street, the kitchen utensil he allegedly used not too far away.

Then 51 years old, White already had a long rap sheet of crimes. But he also had a long history of mental health issues, including dozens of psychiatric commitments. Now on trial for murder, White is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Legal analyst Charles Magill says it's tough to convince a jury a killer was insane, but that history could help White.

"The jury's going to be looking at 'Is this theory of defense something that just came up for this case or does this guy have a long history of mental health issues and mental illness?'" Magill said.

Several people witnessed the alleged attack and pinned it on White, so Magill says the defense attorney will spend more time on the insanity phase of the trial. He says jurors will be looking for specifics on what White was saying to Christopher Westrick before the stabbing, and his behavior before and after the attack.

Magill said jurors will wonder "OK, did this guy seem to be understanding what he was doing? Was his motivation appropriate? After he did the act, did he attempt to flee -- which would be a normal thing someone would do -- or did he just stay there?"

Jurors will hear opening arguments Friday morning. The trial is expected to last a few weeks.


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