Racist killing spree suspect set for trial on mental health issues

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno man accused of four murders and a racist killing spree last year is now on trial over mental health issues.

He's accused of killing Carl Williams, Zack Randalls, Mark Gassett, and David Jackson.

Voices in his head are leading to outbursts in court, according to the defendant's attorney. However, after an interruption Monday, he got a warning from the judge and then stayed under control.

Now, the judge will decide whether he understands what's going on in court and can help his attorney.

The racist shooting spree suspect facing trial for four murders rarely gets through a court appearance without shouting comments unrelated to the accusations, as he did at the end of Monday's hearing.

"Watch the weather," he said as Fresno County sheriff's deputies removed him from court to take him back to jail.

On an Action News reporter's Facebook page, commenters like Meredith Robles and Nancy Razo say the outbursts are fake or planned.

His attorney disagrees, although he understood at least one of his client's off topic comments.

"Richard, do you understand him?" an Action News reporter asked his defense attorney. "Because you translated for him when he had one of his outbursts."

"Well, I understand what he's indicating, at least in that moment," attorney Richard Beshwate said. "Sure, that he was hearing voices and it's hard for him to control some of his outbursts. He's reported to me that he hears voices and he's compelled to say what those voices are saying at any given time."

"If he's hearing voices and then talking to his lawyer and the lawyer can explain what's going on from what the defendant is telling him, I think that would be okay," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "But if he's hearing voices and he's babbling to his attorney and can't cooperate with him, then I think there's a problem in terms of competency."

Capozzi says the outbursts will not sway the judge as much as testimony from the three psychiatrists who analyzed the defendant, which could also prove important if he claims insanity when the murder cases go to trial.

"There may be some issues that come out that may overlap into whether or not he had the mens rea, or the intent in his mind, to commit a murder," Capozzi said.

A couple of the victim's family members say the defendant also gave them the finger as he walked into court before he said anything.

Psychiatrists begin their testimony on Wednesday, and the judge will decide next week whether the case moves forward now, or only after the suspect gets mental health treatment at Atascadero State Hospital.
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