Judge finds Kori Muhammad competent to stand trial for Fresno shooting rampage

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The man suspected of a racist killing spree last year in Fresno is one huge step closer to going on trial. A judge ruled Monday, Kori Muhammad is mentally competent.
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Judge Jon Conklin has found Kori Muhammad competent to stand trial, pushing the murder case closer to preliminary hearing.

After five days of evidence and argument about the defendant's mental status, the judge made his ruling late Monday morning.

It means the case can move forward, and the victims' family members feel closer to justice, but it does not rule out an insanity plea.

Without any other comments, Judge Jonathan Conklin gave the ruling a lot of people have waited months to hear and drew cheers from the crowd.

"I find the defendant is presently competent to stand trial in each case before the court," Conklin said.

From the first day he appeared in court last April, defense attorneys questioned the suspect's mental status.

Two doctors found him incompetent to stand trial, but prosecutors disagreed.

They hired their own doctor who said the defendant has a major mental disorder but also controls it. In 2012, he admitted to playing crazy to avoid punishment in a previous case.

Prosecutors say he's manipulating the system now too, which could be important even as the case moves forward.

"Even from what evidence has been received in this limited hearing, it's no secret that this is a mental health case," Hutchins said.

Defense Attorney Richard Beshwate entered not guilty pleas for his client on all the charges. He will not commit to an insanity defense, but court analysts expect that's where this is headed.

Prosecutor Brian Hutchins would not comment on what is to come, but the way he filed the case, the death penalty is still an option.

The victims' friends and family members understand there's still a long way to go, but at least one of them told us closure finally feels a little closer.

"Justice will be served and I'm just glad I was here today to be with his mother," Tony Mendoza said.
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