Sanity trial for a convicted Fresno murderer

FRESNO, Calif.

The case switched gears Monday after the verdict on Friday.

The jury found Joey Jesse Lopez guilty of murder, but that was just phase one. Now, they'll have to determine whether he was sane when he committed the crime.

Nurses committed Lopez to the mental ward of a local hospital two times in the week before he committed murder, including once on the night before he killed in cold blood.

Surveillance cameras recorded Lopez as he killed a man in December 2009.

Lopez opened fire on Richard Hernandez, a beer delivery truck driver who was making his first stop of the morning at this store on Palm and Belmont.

But what the cameras can't show us is what was running through Lopez's mind.

It's possible those thoughts could keep him out of prison.

"He began hearing voices and the voices would tell him to do things," said Jim Lambe, the defense attorney for Lopez.

Lambe says Lopez was insane when he killed Hernandez, and believes doctors missed two chances to prevent the murder.

Both times, paramedics took Lopez to the hospital after 911 calls about strange behavior.

"He'd been wandering around the neighborhood, acting strangely and barking at people," said paramedic Byron Diel.

Diel took Lopez to the hospital the second time.

This is how Lopez looked when Diel saw him -- shirtless on a December Fresno night when the temperature was about 45 degrees.

But prosecutors say Lopez was just a drunken Bulldog gang member.

He was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication on both hospital visits.

Lopez had a history of domestic violence calls and even family members called the police on him.

His attorney listed off all the 911 calls, each -- he says -- a call for help.

"Mr. Lopez was turned loose hours before this killing and we're here as a result of that," Lambe said.

Prosecutors say Lopez knew the difference between right and wrong when he pulled the trigger.

The jury could decide by the end of the week whether Lopez was sane when he killed Hernandez.

If they say he was, he faces at least 50 years in prison on a life sentence.

If not, he'd end up in a state mental hospital.

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