Valley murder trial begins with an admission

FRESNO, Calif.

The attack happened almost six years ago, but the trial just started Friday. White's not disputing that he killed a man, but he says he was insane at the time.

So, his defense story is his life story. Jerry White sits in court an admitted killer. The 57-year-old acknowledges he grabbed this kitchen knife and stabbed Christopher Westrick because Westrick didn't want White in the kitchen, cooking potatoes in oil.

But White's attorney says Westrick wasn't the only victim.

"This man is victim #1," said defense attorney Jane Boulger, gesturing towards Jerry White. "You probably think 'How dare I say that?' and I will tell you how dare I say this. This man was institutionalized at 12 years old, an elementary school child."

White had dozens of psychiatric commitments before the killing and one retired doctor who will testify in his murder trial dealt with him several times over three decades.

But legal analysts say White's plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity" is a tough one to pull off.

The defense needs to prove he didn't know right from wrong or didn't understand the nature of his act. Prosecutors have used several witnesses who saw White before and after the stabbing to establish that he knew full well what was happening.

"As the defendant was fleeing the scene of the murder at 312 E. Fountain Way, you'll hear testimony that he threatened other people 'Stay away from me or I'll stab you too,'" said prosecutor Robert Mangano.

At the very least, the defense will try to convince jurors White couldn't have premeditated the crime because of his mental health problems.

"He's guilty of killing him," Boulger said. "He did do that act, but not murder. Murder has a specific mindset."

White's facing life in prison or a new commitment to a state mental hospital. The trial's expected to last about three weeks.

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